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Movement and phenology of bees in a subtropical Australian agricultural landscape



Bees are mobile organisms that seek food and nesting opportunities from a range of habitats. It is important to understand the way they move in agricultural landscapes if we are to conserve them and benefit from their activity as pollinators. We surveyed bees using directional flight interception (Malaise) traps over a 1-year period in two agricultural landscapes in south-east Queensland, Australia. We placed traps at the ecotone between crops and remnant vegetation to establish the pattern of movement between these habitats. Species richness in these landscapes (70) was high relative to that in comparable studies. Some bees were active year round, but most were caught in the period September to March. Across the whole assemblage there was a significant pattern where more species were detected leaving rather than entering remnant vegetation. The same bias was true for the number of individuals of the two most abundant species (Homalictus urbanus and Apis mellifera). Species exclusively found in crops were smaller on average (and therefore have smaller foraging range) than their non-crop counterparts. Together, these patterns indicate that while bees are abundant in crop habitat, the remnant vegetation is important as the point of origin for bee movements, and the riparian remnant in particular is richer than the dry native remnant. Compositional similarity among samples was significantly explained by landscape but also movement direction (i.e. to or from the riparian remnant) because different species showed different patterns of response. The landscape with greater native vegetation cover supported more species in and around crops than the landscape with less native vegetation.