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Honeybee spillover reshuffles pollinator diets and affects plant reproductive success


During the past decades, managed honeybee stocks have increased globally. Managed honeybees are particularly used within mass-flowering crops and often spill over to adjacent natural habitats after crop blooming. Here, we uniquely show the simultaneous impact that honeybee spillover has on wild plant and animal communities in flower-rich woodlands via changes in plant–pollinator network structure that translate into a direct negative effect on the reproductive success of a dominant wild plant. Honeybee spillover leads to a re-assembly of plant–pollinator interactions through increased competition with other pollinator species. Moreover, honeybee preference for the most abundant plant species reduces its seed set, driven by high honeybee visitation rates that prevent pollen tube growth. Our study therefore calls for an adequate understanding of the trade-offs between providing pollination services to crops and the effects that managed pollinators might have on wild plants and pollinators.

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Fig. 1: Description of study area and experimental design.
Fig. 2: Effect of honeybee abundance on apparent competition between honeybees and other pollinator species, and interaction turnover.
Fig. 3: Effect of honeybee abundance on seed set and pollen limitation for the two most abundant plant species.


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This project was partially funded by the EU FP7 STEP project ‘Status and trends of European pollinators’ (244 090; and Biodiversa-FACCE project ‘Enhancing biodiversity-based ecosystem services to crops through optimized densities of green infrastructure in agricultural landscapes’ (PCIN-2014-048,, the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness FLORMAS (CGL2012-33801) and the Severo Ochoa program (SEV-2012-0262). A.M. acknowledges funding from the Juan de la Cierva Incorporación program (IJCI-2014-22558). We thank R. Gómez, A. Carrillo-Gavilán, C. Molina and D. Ragel for their assistance in fieldwork. We thank J. M. Ortiz and A. Vujic for identifying most bee and hoverfly specimens, respectively.

Author information




J.P.G.V. and M.V. conceived the experimental design; J.P.G.V., M.B. and A.M. collected field data; A.M. led data analysis and drafted the first version of the manuscript; I.B. participated in data analyses and helped draft the manuscript. All authors commented on manuscript drafts and gave final approval for publication.

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Correspondence to Ainhoa Magrach.

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Supplementary Tables 1–8; Supplementary Figures 1–9

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Magrach, A., González-Varo, J.P., Boiffier, M. et al. Honeybee spillover reshuffles pollinator diets and affects plant reproductive success. Nat Ecol Evol 1, 1299–1307 (2017).

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