• biodiversity;
  • competition;
  • mutualist networks;
  • natural disturbance;
  • phylogenetic community organization;
  • pollination;
  • tropical biosphere reserve

Little is known of the potential coevolution of flowers and bees in changing, biodiverse environments. Female solitary bees, megachilids and Centris, and their nest pollen provisions were monitored with trap nests over a 17-year period in a tropical Mexican biosphere reserve. Invasion by feral Apis (i.e. Africanized honey bees) occurred after the study began, and major droughts and hurricanes occurred throughout. Honey bee competition, and ostensibly pollination of native plants, caused changes in local pollination ecology. Shifts in floral hosts by native bees were common and driven by plant phylogenetics, whereby plants of the same families or higher taxa were substituted for those dominated by honey bees or lost as a result of natural processes. Two important plant families, Anacardiaceae and Euphorbiaceae, were lost to competing honey bees, but compensated for by greater use of Fabaceae, Rubiaceae, and Sapotaceae among native bees. Natural disasters made a large negative impact on native bee populations, but the sustained presence of Africanized honey bees did not. Over 171 plant species comprised the pollen diets of the honey bees, including those most important to Centris and megachilids (72 and 28 species, respectively). Honey bee pollination of Pouteria (Sapotaceae) plausibly augmented the native bees' primary pollen resource and prevented their decline. Invasive generalist pollinators may, however, cause specialized competitors to fail, especially in less biodiverse environments. No claim to original US government works. Journal compilation © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 98, 152–160.