Bee battles: are our native bees losing the fight for resources?

Tufts University
Somerville, Massachusetts
BiologyEcology
DOI: 10.18258/5029
$2,600
Raised
130%
Funded on 6/03/15
Successfully Funded
  • $2,600
    pledged
  • 130%
    funded
  • Funded
    on 6/03/15

About This Project

Is a recently introduced invasive species, the European wool-carder bee, threatening our native bumble bees?

Male wool-carder bees use evolved weapons on the base of their abdomen to ram into bumble bees trying to gain access to flowers. This project will determine if these interactions are hurting bumble bee lifetime reproductive success.

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What is the context of this research?

Invasive species dramatically reshape their invaded landscapes and restructure interactions between native species. In North America, the European wool-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum), a recently introduced non-native species, threatens the well-being of native bees.

Male wool-carder bees defend patches of flowers using evolved weapons on the base of their abdomen to ram into other bees trying to visit the defended flowers. And the cost of these interactions to other bees is high - often severe injury or even death. Of our native bees, bumble bees receive the majority of attacks from wool-carder bees. Yet we do not know the impact of these attacks on bumble bee populations.

What is the significance of this project?

Bumble bees are declining drastically. Some previously common species are estimated to have only 4% of their original population surviving today. We depend on bumble bees to pollinate crops – including tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, and more. Bumble bees perform a special pollination behavior called buzz pollination, which many native crops depend on. Without bumble bees, the sustainability of US agriculture would be in question.

The greatest threat to bumble bees is habitat destruction - urbanization, agriculture and introduction of invasive species, such as the wool-carder bee. Yet we don't know the extent of impact wool-carder bees have on bumble bee decline. Therefore, my research will determine long term effects of wool-carder bees on bumble bees.

Projects such as this are necessary to determine the impact of this invasive bee on our native ecosystem. With the information provided by this project, we can make recommendations about wool-carder bee control and ecosystem rehabilitation.

What are the goals of the project?

My previous research determined that bumble bees actively avoid visiting flowers near wool-carder bees. But we need to establish if wool-carder bees will have long term fitness effects on bumble bees. To do this I will measure fitness in the following ways:

  1. Use 12 screened enclosures filled with flowers to subject 12 bumble bee hives to 2 treatments – enclosures with wool-carder bees, and enclosures without wool-carder bees (controls)
  2. Measure bumble bee hive growth over the season (weekly weight of hives)
  3. Perform bumble bee demographics (number and size of bees, and number of future queens) at the end of the season

Budget

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I need your support to make this research possible. While my previous research showed that bumble bees are negatively affected by wool-carder bees, I have yet to establish direct fitness consequences. With your help, I will determine if the presence of wool-carder bees threaten the long-term viability of bumble bees.

This information will be used to better inform management decisions. If negative fitness effects are found in bumble bees, active management of wool-carder bees will be recommended to limit their impact on our already troubled native bees.

Your support will allow me to purchase bumble bee (B. impatiens) hives and additional screened enclosures for my field site. These enclosures will allow me to manipulate the encounter rate of bumble bees and wool-carder bees. Half the hives will forage in enclosures with wool-carder bees while the other half serve as controls (no wool-carder bees). Data will be collected over 8 weeks between July and September.

STRETCH GOAL: +$500

Thank you so much to all of my backers! I've successfully reached my funding goal, and would love to attain my new reach goal. Research conferences are really important for spreading the word about my research and learning about what other researchers are up to. I've added the goal of $500 to help me attend a conference and present on my findings. Thank you!!


Endorsed by

Kelsey is a passionate and driven researcher who selflessly pursues fundamental biology questions critical to understanding the world around us. She is an ideal researcher to take on this important task of identifying how an invasive insect is impacting our native pollinators.
Kelsey is a community centered researcher whose focus reaches from the betterment of our local community to the health of our global community. Her research explores a cryptic invader, and thus shines light on the relatively unexplored threats to our local communities. Her drive and passion renders her the ideal recipient of our research funds. I recommend her without hesitation.
Kelsey is an enthusiastic and dedicated researcher asking valuable questions about how an invasive bee is affecting the health of our native pollinators. This particular study on the fitness effects of the wool-carder bee on bumble bees is well designed so that the results will help inform management decisions on how to strengthen our native bee populations. Her background and expertise make her an ideal researcher to complete this project.

Meet the Team

Kelsey K Graham
Kelsey K Graham

Team Bio

I'm a fourth year PhD student in the biology department at Tufts University. I'm fascinated by animal behavior and what makes some species so successful at invading new habitats. When I'm not chasing after bees, you can find me playing ultimate frisbee or otherwise enjoying the great outdoors.

Kelsey K Graham

I'm a behavioral ecologist interested in how invasive species impact our native ecosystem. My research falls at the crossroads of animal behavior and invasion ecology. I currently am interested in how a recent bee invader, the European wool-carder bee, is impacting our native bees and plants. Follow me on twitter and instagram @woolcarderbee

Additional Information

Male wool-carder bee, Photo credit: Ilona L


Bumble bee, Photo credit: eskimo_jo


Screened enclosures at Tufts field site

Video credits:

Editor - Jack Wolfe

Voice over - Jen Mortensen

Picture credits - Wild flowers, Photo credit: Dana Voss; Wool carder bee yellow snapdragon, Photo credit: Patty O'Hearn Kickham; Anthidium manicatum map, discoverlife.org; Wool Carder Bee, P8230120, Photo credit: Anita Gould; Wool carder bee in flight, Photo credit: Jim Webber; Anthidium manicatum – European wool-carder bee – male, Photo credit: Ilona L; Bee on cone flower, Photo credit: John Flannery; Produce market, Photo credit: Patrick Feller; Flowers, Photo credit: Domenico Salvagnin; Intact, Photo credit: Mr. E?; Bumble bees, Photo credit: bamble_; Bombus impatiens on Lysimachia clethroides, Photo credit: Dan Nydick


Project Backers

  • 44Backers
  • 130%Funded
  • $2,600Total Donations
  • $54.55Average Donation
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