No detectable impact of parasite-infected commercial bumblebees on wild bees in areas adjacent to greenhouses despite diet overlap

Alejandro Trillo*, Ignasi Bartomeus, F. Javier Ortiz-Sánchez, Jordina Belmonte, Montserrat Vilà

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Over two million commercial bumblebee colonies are used on an annual basis to pollinate around 20 crop types worldwide. Despite their use, especially with crops grown in greenhouses, there is mounting evidence that many individuals also forage outside of them. Hence, the use of commercial bumblebees poses a risk to wild pollinators, especially to those who share floral resources and pathogens. To date, however, there is little evidence about the impact of commercial bumblebees on pollinator communities in Europe. We surveyed the abundance of commercial Bombus terrestris and the prevalence of four of its parasites in natural areas at increasing distances from vegetable crops in Cabo de Gata-Níjar (Almería, SE Spain), the most extensive greenhouse cultivation area in the world. We also estimated resource niche overlap (i.e., shared plants used) between commercial bumblebees and the native pollinator community. Finally, we explored whether the abundance and diversity of pollinators in natural habitats were influenced by agricultural expansion (i.e., distance to greenhouses) and bumblebee abundance. We found a sharp reduction in commercial bumblebee densities at increasing distances from greenhouses, with most bumblebees (95%) foraging within a radius of less than 200 m from them. However, these commercial bumblebees had high parasite prevalence (41% of individuals infected) of trypanosomatids, microsporidians and neogregarines. Moreover, their diet particularly overlapped with honeybees and large wild bees. Yet, pollinator density and diversity were not related to the distance from greenhouses or to bumblebee abundance. Although our results suggest that commercial bumblebees do not significantly harm wild pollinators, actions like preventing their escape from greenhouses, monitoring their health and optimising their use should be considered so as to minimise future risks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107604
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Volume320
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2021

Keywords

  • Agroecosystems
  • Bombus terrestris
  • Plant-pollinator interactions
  • Pollen
  • Spillover
  • Vegetable crops

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