Early-season mass-flowering crop cover dilutes wild bee abundance and species richness in temperate regions: A quantitative synthesis

L. G.A. Riggi, C. A. Raderschall, T. P.M. Fijen, J. Scheper, H. G. Smith, D. Kleijn, A. Holzschuh, G. Aguilera, I. Badenhausser, S. Bänsch, N. Beyer, E. J. Blitzer, R. Bommarco, B. Danforth, J. P. González-Varo, H. Grab, G. Le Provost, K. Poveda, S. G. Potts, M. RundlöfI. Steffan-Dewenter, T. Tscharntke, M. Vilà, C. Westphal, Berggren, O. Lundin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pollinators benefit from increasing floral resources in agricultural landscapes, which could be an underexplored co-benefit of mass-flowering crop cultivation. However, the impacts of mass-flowering crops on pollinator communities are complex and appear to be context-dependent, mediated by factors such as crop flowering time and the availability of other flower resources in the landscape. A synthesis of research is needed to develop management recommendations for effective pollinator conservation in agroecosystems. By combining 22 datasets from 13 publications conducted in nine temperate countries (20 European, 2 North American), we investigated if mass-flowering crop flowering time (early or late season), bloom state (during or after crop flowering) and extent of non-crop habitat cover in the landscape moderated the effect of mass-flowering crop cover on wild pollinator abundance and species richness in mass-flowering crop and non-crop habitats. During bloom, wild bee abundance and richness are negatively related to mass-flowering crop cover. Dilution effects were predominant in crop habitats and early in the season, except for bumblebees, which declined with mass-flowering crop cover irrespective of habitat or season. Late in the season and in non-crop habitats, several of these negative relationships were either absent or reversed. Late-season mass-flowering crop cover is positively related to honeybee abundance in crop habitats and to other bee abundance in non-crop habitats. These results indicate that crop-adapted species, like honeybees, move to forage and concentrate on late-season mass-flowering crops at a time when flower availability in the landscape is limited, potentially alleviating competition for flower resources in non-crop habitats. We found no evidence of pollinators moving from mass-flowering crop to non-crop habitats after crop bloom. Synthesis and applications: Our results confirm that increasing early-season mass-flowering crop cover dilutes wild pollinators in crop habitats during bloom. We find that dilution effects were absent late in the season. While mass-flowering crop cultivation alone is unlikely to be sufficient for maintaining pollinators, as part of carefully designed diverse crop rotations or mixtures combined with the preservation of permanent non-crop habitats, it might provide valuable supplementary food resources for pollinators in temperate agroecosystems, particularly later in the season when alternative flower resources are scarce.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2023 Dec 20

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Ecology

Free keywords

  • dilution effects
  • floral resource
  • landscape composition
  • mass-flowering crops
  • pollinator abundance
  • pollinator richness
  • seasonal effects


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