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Honeybees Increase Fruit Set in Native Plant Species Important for Wildlife Conservation

Cayuela, Luis, Ruiz-Arriaga, Sarah, Ozers, Christian P.
Environmental management 2011 v.48 no.5 pp. 910-919
Crataegus monogyna, Prunus avium, Tetrao urogallus, Ursus arctos, Vaccinium myrtillus, abandoned land, bee diseases, beekeepers, bilberries, crops, endangered species, fruit growing, fruit set, fruits, honey bee colonies, honey bees, indigenous species, insect pollination, models, nylon, traditional farming, Spain
Honeybee colonies are declining in some parts of the world. This may have important consequences for the pollination of crops and native plant species. In Spain, as in other parts of Europe, land abandonment has led to a decrease in the number of non professional beekeepers, which aggravates the problem of honeybee decline as a result of bee diseases In this study, we investigated the effects of honeybees on the pollination of three native plant species in northern Spain, namely wildcherry Prunus avium L., hawthorn Crataegus monogyna Jacq., and bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus L. We quantified fruit set of individuals from the target species along transects established from an apiary outwards. Half the samples were bagged in a nylon mesh to avoid insect pollination. Mixed-effects models were used to test the effect of distance to the apiary on fruit set in non-bagged samples. The results showed a negative significant effect of distance from the apiary on fruit set for hawthorn and bilberry, but no significant effects were detected for wildcherry. This suggests that the use of honeybees under traditional farming practices might be a good instrument to increase fruit production of some native plants. This may have important consequences for wildlife conservation, since fruits, and bilberries in particular, constitute an important feeding resource for endangered species, such as the brown bear Ursus arctos L. or the capercaillie Tetrao urogallus cantabricus L.