New Zealand Journal of Ecology (1993) 17(2): 85- 93

Competition between Honey-Bees (Apis mellifera) and Wasps (Vespula Spp) in Honeydew Beech (Nothofagus solandri: Var solandri) Forest

Research Article
T. J. Markwell 1,3
D. Kelly 2
K. W. Duncan 1
  1. Department of Zoology, Univeristy of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand
  2. Department of Plant and Microbial Science, Univeristy of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand
  3. present address: School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, P.O. Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand

Honeydew, the sugary exudate of the scale insect Ultracoelostoma brittini, is an important food source in black beech (Nothofagus solandri var. solandri) forests in the South Island of New Zealand. Two of the most prominent foragers of honeydew are honey bees (Apis mellifera) and wasps (Vespula germanica and V. vulgaris). Observations in the field and using a captive bee hive were used to investigate competition between bees and wasps feeding on honeydew. In laboratory trials, interference competition was often strong, and many cases of aggression were noted. In the forest, there was invariably enough room on the trees for bees and wasps to feed while rarely encountering one another. Over the whole year, environmental variables (especially low temperatures and rain), were found to constrain honey bee foraging to a greater degree than competition with wasps. Because the competition that did occur was primarily exploitation competition, reciprocal effects were likely to be felt. At Coopers Creek, bees may be reducing wasp densities, compared with the situation in Nelson—Marlborough where commercial hives are scarce. It may be possible to reduce wasp densities locally by increasing the number of bee hives in an area.