Dancing bees communicate a foraging preference for rural lands in high-level agri-environment schemes

Couvillon, Margaret J, Schürch, Roger and Ratnieks, Francis L W (2014) Dancing bees communicate a foraging preference for rural lands in high-level agri-environment schemes. Current Biology, 24 (12). pp. 1212-1215. ISSN 0960-9822

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Abstract

Since 1994, more than €41 billion has been spent in the European Union on agri-environment schemes (AESs), which aim to mitigate the effects of anthropomorphic landscape changes via financial incentives for land managers to encourage environmentally friendly practices [ 1–6 ]. Surprisingly, given the substantial price tag and mandatory EU member participation [ 2 ], there is either a lack of [ 1 ] or mixed [ 1, 2, 7 ] evidence-based support for the schemes. One novel source of data to evaluate AESs may be provided by an organism that itself may benefit from them. Honeybees (Apis mellifera), important pollinators for crops and wildflowers [ 8, 9 ], are declining in parts of the world from many factors, including loss of available forage from agricultural intensification [ 10–13 ]. We analyzed landscape-level honeybee foraging ecology patterns over two years by decoding 5,484 waggle dances from bees located in the center of a mixed, urban-rural 94 km2 area, including lands under government-funded AESs. The waggle dance, a unique behavior performed by successful foragers, communicates to nestmates the most profitable foraging locations [ 14–16 ]. After correcting for distance, dances demonstrate that honeybees possess a significant preference for rural land managed under UK Higher Level AESs and a significant preference against rural land under UK Organic Entry Level AESs. Additionally, the two most visited areas contained a National and Local Nature Reserve, respectively. Our study demonstrates that honeybees, with their great foraging range and sensitive response to forage quality, can be used as bioindicators to monitor large areas and provide information relevant to better environmental management.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH0301 Biology
Depositing User: Tom Gittoes
Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2015 10:38
Last Modified: 12 Mar 2015 10:38
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/53343
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