Quantifying forage specialisation in polyphagic insects: the polylectic and rare solitary bee, Colletes floralis (Hymenoptera: Colletidae)


Emily S. Davis, Quercus, School of Biological Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, UK. E-mail: edavis01@qub.ac.uk


Abstract.  1. Many insect species vary in their degree of foraging specialisation, with many bee species considered polyphagic (polylectic). Wild, non-managed bee species vary in their conservation status, and species-specific biological traits such as foraging specialisation may play an important role in determining variance in population declines. Current agri-environment schemes (AESs) prescribe the introduction of flower seed mixes for agricultural systems to aid the conservation of wild bees. However, the extent to which flower combinations adequately meet bee foraging requirements is poorly known.

2. We quantitatively assessed pollen use and selectivity using two statistical approaches: Bailey’s Intervals and Compositional Analysis, in an examplar species, a purportedly polylectic and rare bee, Colletes floralis, across 7 sites through detailed analysis of bee scopal pollen loads and flower abundance.

3. Both approaches provided good congruence, but Compositional Analysis was more robust to small sample sizes. We advocate its use for the quantitative determination of foraging behaviour and dietary preference.

4. Although C. floralis is polylectic, it showed a clear dietary preference for plants within the family Apiaceae. Where Apiaceae was uncommon, the species exploited alternative resources. Other plant families, such as the Apiaceae, could be included, or have their proportion increased in AES seed mixes, to aid the management of C. floralis and potentially other wild solitary bees of conservation concern.