Generalist social bees maximize diversity intake in plant species-rich and resource-abundant environments

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


  • Benjamin F. Kaluza
  • Helen Wallace
  • Alexander Keller
  • Tim A. Heard
  • Bradley Jeffers
  • Nora Drescher
  • Nico Blüthgen
  • Sara D. Leonhardt

Numerous studies revealed a positive relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, suggesting that biodiverse environments may not only enhance ecosystem processes, but also benefit individual ecosystem members by, for example, providing a higher diversity of resources. Whether and how the number of available resources affects resource collection and subsequently consumers (e.g., through impacting functions associated with resources) have, however, been little investigated, although a better understanding of this relationship may help explain why the abundance and richness of many animal species typically decline with decreasing plant (resource) diversity. Using a social bee species as model (Tetragonula carbonaria), we investigated how plant species richness-recorded for study sites located in different habitats-and associated resource abundance affected the diversity and functionality (here defined as nutritional content and antimicrobial activity) of resources (i.e., pollen, nectar, and resin) collected by a generalist herbivorous consumer. The diversity of both pollen and resin collected strongly increased with increasing plant/tree species richness, while resource abundance was only positively correlated with resin diversity. These findings suggest that bees maximize resource diversity intake in (resource) diverse habitats. Collecting more diverse resources did, however, not increase their functionality, which appeared to be primarily driven by the surrounding (plant) source community in our study. In generalist herbivores, maximizing resource diversity intake may therefore primarily secure collection of sufficient amounts of resources across the entire foraging season, but it also ensures that the allocated resources meet all functional needs. Decreasing available resource diversity may thus impact consumers primarily by reduced resource abundance, but also by reduced resource functionality, particularly when resources of high functionality (e.g., from specific plant species) become scarce.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01758
Issue number3
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 01.03.2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Rhys Smith, Julia Nagler, Manuel Pützstück, Birte Hensen, Mia Kaluza, and Marvin Schäfer for assistance with field work. Sahara Farms, Macadamia Farm Management Pty Ltd, and Maroochy Bushland Botanic Gardens, as well as numerous private land and garden owners hosted our bee hives, for which we are very grateful. We thank Andrea Hilpert for analyzing the amino acid content of pollen. We further much appreciate the comments of three anonymous reviewers which greatly helped to improve the manuscript. BFK received funding from the German Academic Exchange Agency (DAAD). Funding was provided by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG Project: LE 2750/1-1).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Kaluza et al.

    Research areas

  • Functional complementarity, Functional redundancy, Meliponini, Nutritional ecology, Plant-insect interactions, Pollinator decline
  • Ecosystems Research