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Argentine ants harm nestlings of the blue tit

The consequences of ant invasions on ecosystems may only become apparent after long periods. In addition, predicting how sensitive native fauna will respond is only possible if the underlying proximate mechanisms of their impact are identified. The attraction of the native and invasive ant community to artificial bird nests was studied, together with reproduction of a wild native songbird over five consecutive breeding seasons in relation to the presence of an invasive ant species. Biometric, reproductive and individual blood parameters of great tits Parus major breeding in invaded as compared to uninvaded sites by Argentine ants Linepithema humile were analysed. Great tits bred preferably in uninvaded territories by the Argentine ant. Moreover, Argentine ants were more abundant at nests in invaded sites, than any native ant species were at uninvaded sites. Further, Argentine ants recruited at the artificial nests more intensively and responded to a larger variety of nest (intact eggs, cracked eggs, faeces, and cracked eggs plus faeces) contents than native species. Although breeding success and adult condition did not vary in relation to invasion status, offspring quality was negatively affected by the presence of Argentine ants. Nestlings reared in invaded sites were lighter, with lower wing/tarsus length ratio and had a reduced nutritional condition and altered oxidative stress balance as measured from several blood parameters. The interspersed distribution and small distance between invaded versus uninvaded territories suggest that ant presence affects nestling condition through direct interference at the nest. These results highlight the importance of evaluating the proximate effects like physiological parameters of the native fauna, when studying invasive ant-native bird interactions. informacion[at] Álvarez et al (2020) Breeding consequences for a songbird nesting in Argentine ant' invaded land. Biol Invasions
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Use of commercial bumble bees as pollinators in the strawberry “Fortuna” crops does not enhance crop yield

Use of commercial bumble bees as pollinators in the strawberry "Fortuna" crops does not enhance crop yield

Animal-mediated pollination is essential for the production and quality of fruits and seeds of many crops consumed by humans. However, crop pollination services might be compromised when wild pollinators are scarce. Managed pollinators are commonly used in crops to supplement such services with the assumption that they will enhance crop yield. However, information on the spatiotemporal pollinator-dependence of crops is still limited. The contribution of commercial bumble bee colonies compared to the available pollinator community on strawberry (‘Fortuna' variety) flower visitation and strawberry quality across a landscape gradient of agricultural intensification (i.e. polytunnel berry crop cover) was assessed. Colonies of bumble bees were used in winter and in spring, i.e. when few and most wild pollinators are in their flight period, respectively. The placement of colonies increased visits of bumble bees to strawberry flowers, especially in winter. The use of bumble bee colonies did not affect flower visitation by other insects, mainly honey bees, hoverflies and other Diptera. Flower visitation by both honey bees and wild insects did not vary between seasons and was unrelated to the landscape gradient of berry crop cover. Strawberries were of the highest quality (i.e. weight) when insect-mediated pollination was allowed, and their quality was positively related to wild flower visitors in winter but not in spring. However, increased visits to strawberry flowers by managed bumble bees and honey bees had no effect on strawberry weight. These results suggest that the pollination services producing high quality strawberry fruits are provided by the flower visitor community present in the study region without the need to use managed bumble bees. informacion[at] Trillo et al (2018) Managed bumble bees increase flower visitation but not fruit weight in polytunnel strawberry crops. Basic Appl Ecol. Doi 10.1016/j.baae.2018.05.008