Given that many pollinators have exhibited dramatic declines related to habitat destruction, an improved understanding of pollinator resource collection across human-altered landscapes is essential to conservation efforts. Despite the importance of bumble bees (Bombus spp.) as global pollinators, little is known regarding how pollen collection patterns vary between individuals, colonies, and landscapes. In this study, Vosnesensky bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii Radoszkowski) were collected from a range of human-altered and natural landscapes in northern California. Extensive vegetation surveys and Geographic Information System (GIS)-based habitat classifications were conducted at each site, bees were genotyped to identify colony mates, and pollen loads were examined to identify visited plants. In contrast to predictions based on strong competitive interactions, pollen load composition was significantly more similar for bees captured in a shared study region compared with bees throughout the research area but was not significantly more similar for colony mates. Preference analyses revealed that pollen loads were not composed of the most abundant plant species per study region. The majority of ranked pollen preference lists were significantly correlated for pairwise comparisons of colony mates and individuals within a study region, whereas the majority of pairwise comparisons of ranked pollen preference lists between individuals located at separate study regions were uncorrelated. Results suggest that pollen load composition and foraging preferences are similar for bees throughout a shared landscape regardless of colony membership. The importance of native plant species in pollen collection is illustrated through preference analyses, and we suggest prioritization of specific rare native plant species for enhanced bumble bee pollen collection.
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Vol. 43 • No. 2