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Oecologia. 2013 Jun;172(2):477-84. doi: 10.1007/s00442-012-2515-5. Epub 2012 Nov 1.

Mass-flowering crops enhance wild bee abundance.

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Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology, Biocenter, University of Würzburg, Am Hubland, 97074, Würzburg, Germany.


Although agricultural habitats can provide enormous amounts of food resources for pollinator species, links between agricultural and (semi-)natural habitats through dispersal and foraging movements have hardly been studied. In 67 study sites, we assessed the interactions between mass-flowering oilseed rape fields and semi-natural grasslands at different spatial scales, and their effects on the number of brood cells of a solitary cavity-nesting bee. The probability that the bee Osmia bicornis colonized trap nests in oilseed rape fields increased from 12 to 59 % when grassland was nearby, compared to fields isolated from grassland. In grasslands, the number of brood cells of O. bicornis in trap nests was 55 % higher when adjacent to oilseed rape compared to isolated grasslands. The percentage of oilseed rape pollen in the larval food was higher in oilseed rape fields and grasslands adjacent to oilseed rape than in isolated grasslands. In both oilseed rape fields and grasslands, the number of brood cells was positively correlated with the percentage of oilseed rape pollen in the larval food. We show that mass-flowering agricultural habitats--even when they are intensively managed--can strongly enhance the abundance of a solitary bee species nesting in nearby semi-natural habitats. Our results suggest that positive effects of agricultural habitats have been underestimated and might be very common (at least) for generalist species in landscapes consisting of a mixture of agricultural and semi-natural habitats. These effects might also have--so far overlooked--implications for interspecific competition and mutualistic interactions in semi-natural habitats.

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