Foraging habitats and foraging distances of bumblebees, Bombus spp. (Hym., Apidae), in an agricultural landscape


Authors' address: Dr Robert Frankl (corresponding author), Department of Biology, Nature Conservation, University Marburg, D-35032 Marburg, Germany.


Abstract: In selected foraging habitats of an agricultural landscape flower visits of bumblebees and community structure of foraging bumblebees were studied, with special regard to the role of crops as super-abundant resources. Most crops represent temporal foraging habitats with high abundance of bumblebees but mainly with low diversity in the bumblebee forage community, in contrast to permanent foraging habitats such as, for example, a hedgerow. The high numbers of bumblebees in the monoculture of crop plantations consisted mainly of short-tongued bumblebee species. The role of foraging distances for the visitation rate of foraging habitats was studied by performing capture–recapture experiments with natural nests of Bombus terrestris, Bombus lapidarius and Bombus muscorum. Differences were found on the species as well as the individual level. The foraging distances of B. muscorum were more restricted to the neighbourhood of the nesting habitat than the foraging activity of B. terrestris and B. lapidarius. High percentages of B. terrestris workers were recaptured while foraging on super-abundant resources in distances up to 1750 m from the nest. Isolated patches of highly rewarding forage crops, in agricultural landscapes, are probably only accessed by bumblebee species with large mean foraging distances, such as the short-tongued B. terrestris. Species like the rare, long-tongued B. muscorum depend on a close connection between nesting and foraging habitat. A restricted foraging radius might be one important factor of bumblebee species loss and potential pollinator limitation in modern agricultural landscapes. Furthermore, long-distance flights of bumblebee pollinators have to be considered in the present discussion on gene flow from transgenic plant species on a landscape scale.