Annual flowers strips benefit bumble bee colony growth and reproduction

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Bumble bees are important crop pollinators but are negatively impacted by agricultural intensification and concomitant loss of floral resources. Flower strips can increase the abundance and sometimes the diversity of bumble bees at local scales, but the importance of flower strips for bumble bee populations at larger scales remains poorly understood. We investigated the effect of flower strips on bumble bee colony growth and reproduction at landscape scales. Commercial bumble bee colonies of a native species (Bombus terrestris) were placed and monitored at different distances from flower strips that were sown on existing ecological focus areas (European Common Agricultural Policy) in southern Sweden. Both the average colony growth (weight) and the production of reproductives (drones and queens) were highest for colonies adjacent to flower strips and declined with increasing distance. Colonies close to the flower strip also produced more reproductives per colony weight. Colony foraging activity was negatively related to the distance to flower strips whereas worker size was not affected. Annual flower strips in ecological focus areas benefit bumble bee colonies by increasing foraging success, colony growth and finally boosting sexual reproduction, demonstrating potential benefits for pollination within and between seasons. These effects were spatially limited but extended to foraging ranges of bumble bees. However, effects of increased colony growth on the abundance of foraging bees in the landscape may extend to larger distances because of forager movements within seasons and queen dispersal between seasons, suggesting that voluntary or incentivised collaboration between farmers may be needed to achieve optimal implementation of flower strips.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Ecology


  • Agri-environmental schemes, Bombus, Bumble bee colony development, Ecological focus areas, Floral resources, Reproductive success
Original languageEnglish
Article number108814
JournalBiological Conservation
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Dec
Publication categoryResearch

Related projects

Henrik Smith, Ola Olsson, Björn Klatt & Johanna Yourstone

FORMAS, a Swedish research council for sustainable development


Project: Research

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