Complementary habitat use by wild bees in agro-natural landscapes

Yael Mandelik*, Rachael Winfree, Thomas Neeson, Claire Kremen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


Human activity causes abrupt changes in resource availability across the landscape. In order to persist in human-altered landscapes organisms need to shift their habitat use accordingly. Little is known about the mechanisms by which whole communities persist in human-altered landscapes, including the role of complementary habitat use. We define complementary habitat use as the use of different habitats at different times by the same group of species during the course of their activity period. We hypothesize that complementary habitat use is a mechanism through which native bee species persist in human-altered landscapes. To test this idea, we studied wild bee communities in agro-natural landscapes and explored their community-level patterns of habitat and resource use over space and time. The study was conducted in six agro-natural landscapes in the eastern United States, each containing three main bee habitat types (natural habitat, agricultural fields, and old fields). Each of the three habitats exhibited a unique seasonal pattern in amount, diversity, and composition of floral resources, and together they created phenological complementarity in foraging resources for bees. Individual bee species as well as the bee community responded to these spatiotemporal patterns in floral availability and exhibited a parallel pattern of complementary habitat use. The majority of wild bee species, including all the main crop visitors, used fallow areas within crops early in the season, shifted to crops in mid-season, and used old-field habitats later in the season. The natural-forest habitat supported very limited number of bees, mostly visitors of non-crop plants. Old fields are thus an important feature in these arable landscapes for maintaining crop pollination services. Our study provides a detailed examination of how shifts in habitat and resource use may enable bees to persist in highly dynamic agro-natural landscapes, and points to the need for a broad cross-habitat perspective in managing these landscapes.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1535-1546
Number of pages12
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Agriculture
  • Agro-natural landscape
  • Apoidea
  • Bees
  • Complementarity
  • Deciduous forest
  • Habitat use
  • Old fields
  • Pollination


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