Temporal change in floral availability leads to periods of resource limitation and affects diet specificity in a generalist pollinator

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Generalist species are core components of ecological networks and crucial for the maintenance of biodiversity. Generalist species and networks are expected to be more resilient, and therefore understanding the dynamics of specialization and generalization in ecological networks is a key focus in a time of rapid global change. Whilst diet generalization is frequently studied, our understanding of how it changes over time is limited. Here we explore temporal variation in diet specificity in the honeybee (Apis mellifera), using pollen DNA metabarcoding of honey samples, through the foraging season, over two years. We find that, overall, honeybees are generalists that visit a wide range of plants, but there is temporal variation in the degree of specialization. Temporal specialization of honeybee colonies corresponds to periods of resource limitation, identified as a lack of honey stores. Honeybees experience a lack of preferred resources in June when switching from flowering trees in spring to shrubs and herbs in summer. Investigating temporal patterns in specialization can identify periods of resource limitation that may lead to species and network vulnerability. Diet specificity must therefore be explored at different temporal scales in order to fully understand species and network stability in the face of ecological change.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number23
Pages (from-to)6363-6376
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2023

    Research areas

  • Apis mellifera, eDNA, global change, optimal foraging theory, plant-pollinator interactions, pollen DNA metabarcoding, INDIVIDUAL SPECIALIZATION, ECOLOGICAL NETWORKS, R PACKAGE, DIVERSITY

ID: 325714568