Entomology, Department of
Association of excessive precipitation and agricultural land use with honey bee colony performance
Date of this Version
Landsc Ecol https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-023-01638-6
Context From landscape variables to weather, multiple environmental factors affect honey bees and other pollinators. Detailed honey bee colony assessments in a variety of landscape and weather conditions offer the opportunity to develop a mechanistic understanding of how landscape composition, configuration, and weather are associated with colony nutrition, demography, and productivity.
Objectives Our objective was to test if weather and landscape characteristics (e.g., agricultural versus forested land use) are associated with different honey bee colony outcomes (foraged nectar mass, foraged pollen mass, pupal population size, and adult population size change).
Methods We collected detailed colony measurements on over 450 honey bee colonies over four years across an agricultural-to-forested land use gradient in Michigan, USA.
Results We found that higher than normal precipitation in the preceding spring and fall was negatively correlated with colony size change and with foraged nectar mass, respectively. Sites surrounded by less agricultural land and more forested land also had fewer pupae by the end of summer.
Conclusions These inter-dependent colony metrics offer insights into environmental-plant-pollinator dynamics. Our finding that extreme weather events, associated with climate change, are negatively correlated with colony performance point to likely lagged effects of weather on pollinator floral resources. Landscapes managed with climate-resilient, temporally continuous floral resources are likely to support pollinators. Capturing extreme weather phenomena in field studies is a valuable way to investigate the associations between land use, climate change and biological systems. However, caution should be taken in overinterpreting observational studies, so further research is needed.
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