Bumblebee family lineage survival is enhanced in high-quality landscapes

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Abstract

Analysis of three wild-caught bumblebee species shows that family lineage survival and persistence is significantly increased between successive colony cycle stages with the proportion of high-value foraging habitat near the natal colony.

Insect pollinators such as bumblebees (Bombusspp.) are in global decline1,2. A major cause of this decline is habitat loss due to agricultural intensification3. A range of global and national initiatives aimed at restoring pollinator habitats and populations have been developed4,5. However, the success of these initiatives depends critically upon understanding how landscape change affects key population-level parameters, such as survival between lifecycle stages6, in target species. This knowledge is lacking for bumblebees, because of the difficulty of systematically finding and monitoring colonies in the wild. We used a combination of habitat manipulation, land-use and habitat surveys, molecular genetics7 and demographic and spatial modelling to analyse between-year survival of family lineages in field populations of three bumblebee species. Here we show that the survival of family lineages from the summer worker to the spring queen stage in the following year increases significantly with the proportion of high-value foraging habitat, including spring floral resources, within 250-1,000 m of the natal colony. This provides evidence for a positive impact of habitat quality on survival and persistence between successive colony cycle stages in bumblebee populations. These findings also support the idea that conservation interventions that increase floral resources at a landscape scale and throughout the season have positive effects on wild pollinators in agricultural landscapes.

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