Landscape context alters cost of living in honeybee metabolism and feeding

Tomlinson, S., K. W. Dixon, R. K. Didham and S. D. Bradshaw (2017). Landscape context alters cost of living in honeybee metabolism and feeding. Proc. R. Soc. B, The Royal Society.

Field metabolic rate (FMR) links the energy budget of an animal with the constraints of its ecosystem, but is particularly difficult to measure for small organisms. Landscape degradation exacerbates environmental adversity and reduces resource availability, imposing higher costs of living for many organisms. Here, we report a significant effect of landscape degradation on the FMR of free-flying Apis mellifera, estimated using 86Rb radio-isotopic turnover. We validated the relationship between 86Rb kb and metabolic rate for worker bees in the laboratory using flow-through respirometry. We then released radioisotopically enriched individuals into a natural woodland and a heavily degraded and deforested plantation. FMRs of worker bees in natural woodland vegetation were significantly higher than in a deforested landscape. Nectar consumption, estimated using 22Na radio-isotopic turnover, also differed significantly between natural and degraded landscapes. In the deforested landscape, we infer that the costs of foraging exceeded energetic availability, and honeybees instead foraged less and depended more on stored resources in the hive. If this is generally the case with increasing landscape degradation, this will have important implications for the provision of pollination services and the effectiveness and resilience of ecological restoration practice.