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Potential negative effects of exotic honey bees on the diversity of native pollinators and yield of highland coffee plantations

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The honey bee Apis mellifera is native to Eurasia and Africa, although it is commonly introduced into crop fields of different parts of the world because of the assumption that it improves yield. This bee is, however, a poor pollinator of several crops compared with native insects. Indeed, honey bees can displace native pollinators and reduce their diversity. The present study evaluated the potential impacts of A. mellifera on the diversity of native pollinators of highland coffee (Coffea arabica) and its putative consequences for coffee production at the state of Veracruz, Mexico.

The abundance of A. mellifera and diversity of native pollinators were assessed during blooming at 12 shade coffee plantations and pollination experiments were conducted to determine the impacts of pollinators on coffee fruit production. Regression analyses were used to assess whether the abundance of honey bees was related to native pollinator diversity, and whether fruit production was influenced by both the diversity of pollinators and the abundance of A. mellifera.

Native pollinator diversity decreased as the number of honey bees increased. Furthermore, although coffee fruit production was positively related to the diversity of native pollinators, an increasing abundance of A. mellifera was correlated with a decrease in fruit production.

Highland shade coffee plantations are considered as reservoirs of the Mexican insect fauna. Thus, native pollinator diversity could be better preserved if beekeepers reduced the number of managed hives that they brought into plantations. This may also help to increase coffee yield by decreasing the putative negative effects of A. mellifera on native pollinators.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-11-01

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