Pathogens pose significant threats to pollinator health and food security. Pollinators can transmit diseases during foraging, but the consequences of plant species composition for infection is unknown. In agroecosystems, flowering strips or hedgerows are often used to augment pollinator habitat. We used canola as a focal crop in tents and manipulated flowering strip composition using plant species we had previously shown to result in higher or lower bee infection in short-term trials. We also manipulated initial colony infection to assess impacts on foraging behavior. Flowering strips using high-infection plant species nearly doubled bumble bee colony infection intensity compared to low-infection plant species, with intermediate infection in canola-only tents. Both infection treatment and flowering strips reduced visits to canola, but we saw no evidence that infection treatment shifted foraging preferences. Although high-infection flowering strips increased colony infection intensity, colony reproduction was improved with any flowering strips compared to canola alone. Effects of flowering strips on colony reproduction were explained by nectar availability, but effects of flowering strips on infection intensity were not. Thus, flowering strips benefited colony reproduction by adding floral resources, but certain plant species also come with a risk of increased pathogen infection intensity.
Recommended CitationAdler, Lynn S.; Barber, Nicholas A.; Biller, Olivia M.; and Irwin, Rebecca E., "Flowering plant composition shapes pathogen infection intensity and reproduction in bumble bee colonies." (2020). Department of Occupational Therapy Faculty Papers. Paper 73.