Spatio-temporal dynamics of bumblebee nest parasites (BombussubgenusPsythirusssp.) and their hosts (Bombusspp.)

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Summary1. A 39-year bumblebee data base was used to study the codistribution of six cuckoo bumblebees in the subgenus Psythirus of Bombus (hereafter called Psythirus) and their free-living bumblebee hosts in the British Isles.2. A model of nest parasitism predicted host threshold densities and stable deterministic dynamics, with fluctuations only emerging as a result of environmental or demographic stochasticity.3. Standardized transects indicated that variation in total number of records could be largely attributed to variation in observer effort; analyses were therefore carried out using relative abundance.4. Spatially, parasite-free zones were evident in areas of low host abundance, but the host threshold for parasite presence differed among species and locations.5. Temporally, the relative numbers of the parasite and host species remained relatively constant, except that the nest parasite P. campestris declined significantly since 1990.6. There were consistent negative effects of the parasitic species on the numbers of hosts in the following year, and this pattern was seen over large geographic areas.7. The spatio-temporal patterns confirmed a high degree of host specificity, except that P. campestris may be parasitizing not only B. pascuorum but also other species in the subgenus Thoracobombus.

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