Feral honey bees in pine forest landscapes of east Texas
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In 1990 the Africanized honey bee, a descendent of Apis mellifera scutellata, was identified in south Texas [Hunter, L.A., Jackman, J.A., Sugden, E.A., 1992. Detection records of Africanized honey bees in Texas during 1990, 1991 and 1992. Southwestern Entomol. 18, 79-89]. The potential impact of this immigrant on feral and managed colonies was the subject of considerable speculation. The goal of this study was to investigate the diversity of feral honey bee races in pine forest landscapes of east Texas, subsequent to immigration of A. m. scutellata. The specific objectives were (i) to assess the immigration of A. m. scutellata into east Texas pine forest landscapes and (ii) to evaluate the suitability of the pine forest landscape to feral honey bees. This mesoscale landscape study was conducted on the Sam Houston National Forest in east Texas. Swarm traps and aerial pitfall traps were used to monitor feral honey bees. Spatial databases were used to evaluate suitability of the pine forest landscape for honey bees. Scoring mitochondrial DNA type (mitotypes), we found representatives of A. mellifera scutellata, eastern European, western European, and A. mellifera lamarckii races in pine forest landscapes of east Texas. The conclusions that follow from this aspect of the investigation are (i) honey bees are a ubiquitous component of the pine forest landscape in east Texas, (ii) mitotype diversity persists subsequent to the immigration of A. m. scutellata, and (iii) A. m. scutellata is an added element of the mitotype diversity in the landscape. To evaluate quantitatively the suitability of the pine forest to feral honey bees, we used a spatial database for the study area and FRAGSTATS. The landscape structure in 1256 ha units surrounding six swarms of honey bees captured in the swarm traps was examined. The metrics used to characterize the kind, number, size, shape, and configuration of elements forming the landscape, defined a heterogeneous environment for honey bees that included sufficient food and habitat resources needed for survival, growth, and reproduction. The conclusions that follow from this aspect of the investigation are (1) although classified as a pine forest, management practices and other human activities have altered the landscape and thereby created food and habitat resources suitable for honey bees, (2) the forestry practices associated specifically with road corridor maintenance, stream side corridor protection, RCW management, and Wilderness Area management introduce structural heterogeneity to the forest landscape which enriches the diversity and abundance of early successional flowering plants and provides cavity sites needed by honey bees, (3) ranching, farming, and urbanization within the study area also create these conditions, and (4) based on inferences from melissopalynology, honey bees provide pollination services for a broad representation of native and introduced flowering plant species of the pineywoods ecoregion. 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.