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DNA metabarcoding identifies urban foraging patterns of oligolectic and polylectic cavity-nesting bees.


Urbanisation modifies natural landscapes resulting in built-up space and managed green spaces that often substitute native plant species with exotics. Some native bee species have been able to adapt to urban environments, foraging and reproducing in these highly modified areas. However, little is known on how the foraging ecology of native bees is affected by urbanised environments, and whether impacts vary among species with different degrees of specialisation for pollen collection. Here, we aim to investigate the responses of native bee foraging behaviour to urbanisation, using DNA metabarcoding to identify the resources within nesting tubes. We targeted oligolectic (specialist) and polylectic (generalist) cavity-nesting bee species in residential gardens and remnant bushland habitats. We were able to identify 40 families, 50 genera, and 23 species of plants, including exotic species. Oligolectic bee species had higher alpha diversity of plant pollen in their nesting tubes in residential gardens compared to bushland habitats, along with significantly different forage composition between the two habitats. This result implies a greater degree of forage flexibility and urban adaptation for oligolectic bee species than previously thought. In contrast, the richness and composition of plant forage in polylectic bee nesting tubes did not vary between the two habitat types. Our results suggest a complex response of cavity-nesting bees to urbanisation and support the need for additional research to understand how the shifts in foraging resources impact overall bee health.

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