The effect of managed honeybees on wild pollinator networks- PhD Scholarship

The effect of managed honeybees on wild pollinator networks

School of Natural Sciences, Bangor University, Wales

Project ID: BUK2E024

Annual Stipend: £14,483

Application Deadline: 30 November 2019

Increasing interest in beekeeping using the western honeybee Apis mellifera has led to concerns that managed bees may negatively affect wild pollinators (including other wild bees, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles and hemipterans). This could occur through competition for floral and nesting resources, changes in plant communities, including the spread of exotic plants and decline of native plants, and/or cross-species transmission of pathogens. Few studies have examined direct effects on fitness, abundance and diversity of wild pollinators and native plants, instead reporting potential for impact. Even fewer studies have compared pollinator networks in the absence vs. presence of honeybees due to the difficulty of ensuring that no honeybees are present, as they can forage over long distances from the hive. This project benefits from the involvement of Bodorgan Estate, the largest estate on the Isle of Anglesey, flanked by two large SSSI’s (Aberffraw Dunes and Malltraeth Estuary/Newborough Dunes) to north and south and the sea to the west.

Using a combination of novel techniques (eDNA metabarcoding and automated drone-tracking) this study will address a number of critical pollination questions. Does competition with honeybees for floral resources (nectar and pollen) induce changes in wild bee floral use and niche breadth (e.g., time spent foraging, species visited, pollen vs. nectar collection, distance travelled from nest)? Do honeybees enhance seed set of crop and native wildflower plants through complementarity, or detrimentally affect it through exclusion of other pollinators? What is the evidence that floral resources are limiting (ie. what proportion of pollen and nectar resources are consumed in the absence of honeybees and does this change in their presence)? Do managed bees transmit infectious agents (particularly ssRNA viruses, which are known to infect a variety of arthropods) to wild hymenopteran and non-hymenopteran pollinators via contaminated pollen, faeces, or contact on shared foraging resources?

Honeybee introduction may represent a way to improve pollinator-dependent crop yields in a sustainable manner. This study will provide an increased understanding of the extent to which pollinator diversity functions synergistically in the presence or absence of honeybees, and will have far-reaching implications for land management decisions for agriculture and wildlife conservation.

To express an interest, please contact a.malhotra@bangor.ac.uk or paul.cross@bangor.ac.uk in the first instance by the end of November. To apply, please send a CV and covering letter to a.malhotra@bangor.ac.uk cc to p.j.dowdney@bangor.ac.uk.

Interviews are likely to be held in mid-December. In order to maximise the available field seasons (roughly March/April to September/October), we wish to start this PhD scholarship by the end of January 2020.

Please note that due to ESF funding, eligibility restrictions apply to this scholarship. To be eligible, the successful candidate will need to be resident in East Wales on University registration, and must have the right to work in the region on qualification.

Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships East (KESS 2 East) is a pan-Wales higher-level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for East Wales