Population genetics of commercial and wild bumble bees reveals surprising patterns of visitation to agricultural crops
Declines in bee populations reared for use in commercial agriculture have led to concerns regarding how to maintain agricultural productivity for animal-pollinated crops. Visitation of wild bees to agricultural crops may mitigate negative effects of commercial bee declines. However, the extent to which wild bees visit agricultural crops is largely unknown, especially for species that are also used in agriculture. We used population genetic techniques to first investigate the extent to which commercial and wild bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) are genetically different, and then to examine patterns of visitation to agricultural crops. Our sampling areas included non-agricultural natural areas with no history of commercial bee use, as well as cranberry bogs with varying intensity of commercial bee use scattered throughout eastern Massachusetts.
We found significant genetic differences between commercial and wild B. impatiens and evidence that wild B. impatiens provided pollination services to commercial cranberries.