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Vegetation Management and Host Density Influence BeeParasite Interactions in Urban Gardens

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Apocephalus borealis phorid flies, a parasitoid of bumble bees and yellow jacket wasps in North America, was recently reported as a novel parasitoid of the honey bee Apis mellifera Linnaeus (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Little is known about the ecology of this interaction, including phorid fecundity on bee hosts, whether phorid-bee parasitism is density dependent, and which local habitat and landscape features may correlate with changes in parasitism rates for either bumble or honey bees. We examined the impact of local and landscape drivers and host abundance on phorid parasitism of A. mellifera and the bumble bee Bombus vosnesenskii Radoszkowski (Hymenoptera: Apidae). We worked in 19 urban gardens along the North-Central Coast of California, where phorid parasitism of honey bees was first reported in 2012. We collected and incubated bees for phorid emergence, and surveyed local vegetation, ground cover, and floral characteristics as well as land cover types surrounding gardens. We found that phorid parasitism was higher on bumble bees than on honey bees, and phorids produced nearly twice as many pupae on individual bumble bee hosts than on honey bee hosts. Parasitism of both bumble and honey bees increased with abundance of honey bees in a site. Differences in landscape surroundings did not correlate with parasitism, but local factors related to bee resource provisioning (e.g., tree and shrub abundance) positively correlated with increased parasitism. This research thus helps to document and describe conditions that may have facilitated phorid fly host shift to honey bees and further elucidate how resource provisioning in urban gardens influences bee-parasite interactions.

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