Bees in disturbed habitats use, but do not prefer, alien plants

Neal M. Williams, Daniel Cariveau, Rachael Winfree, Claire Kremen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Alien plants form important interactions with flower visitors across many systems and are especially likely to dominate these interactions in disturbed habitats where native plants are rare. Most studies of alien plant-pollinator interactions have focused on the effects of alien plants on native plant reproduction; however, these alien plants may also be important food resources for native bees especially if they dominate the " floral market" Dominance of alien species in the diet of bees could occur due to high relative density and abundance of alien plants and flowers, and/or to bee preference for alien plants when they are present. We investigated bees' use of and preference for alien plants using two data sets from distinct regions of North America, central California and southern New Jersey. In each system, we sampled bees and flowering plants in multiple habitat types that differ in level of disturbance and in the relative abundance of alien plant species. Alien plants as a group dominated interactions with bee communities in more disturbed habitats. Importance, however, varied among plant species such that a subset of highly used plant species drove the overall pattern of use within the community. Despite higher use of alien plants in more disturbed sites, alien plants as a group were not more preferred. Rather, bees' use of individual alien plants correlated with plant abundance in the community. Consistent with the interpretation that bees use, but do not prefer, alien plants, we found no effect of alien plant abundance or richness on bee abundance or richness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)332-341
Number of pages10
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank A.-M. Klein for the invitation to participate in the Special Issue. D. Lowry, S. Greenleaf, N. Nicola, assisted with field collections. C. Brittain and three anonymous reviewers provided valuable comments on the manuscript. NMW was supported by a Smith Conservation Postdoctoral Fellowship during field work. Funding for the California field work was also provided by a McDonnell 21st Century Award to CK. Funding for the New Jersey field work was provided by Princeton University and the American Museum of Natural History.


  • Alien plant
  • Bees
  • Exotic plant
  • Human disturbance
  • Invasive species
  • Preference
  • Resource use


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