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Trade-offs between pollinator community richness and honey production in upland semi-natural habitats.

Project Description

The pollination services provided by bees and other insects are vital to persistence of Scotland’s semi-natural habitats, and they sustain important rural industries including production of crops, soft fruits and honey. However, pollinator populations in Scotland are threatened. The Pollinator Strategy for Scotland 2017-2027 aims “to address the causes of decline in populations, diversity and range of our pollinator species”, and has specifically identified a need for more information on the impacts of managed pollinators on wild pollinator populations as a key objective. Upland moorland habitats support a diverse assemblage of pollinators including the honey bee, bumble bees, solitary bees and other insects. The threats to pollinators in these habitats are manifold, and include high densities of honey bee hives for heather honey production which may compete with wild pollinators for floral resources and transmit disease pathogens. The aims of this studentship will be to examine the impact of competition for floral resources between honey bees and the wild pollinator assemblage on Scottish uplands. The guiding hypothesis is that resource competition may limit wild pollinator populations in habitats where the density of honeybees is elevated by seasonal use of upland habitats by bee keepers for heather honey production, but that specific land management actions may be taken to remediate this issue.

We will select a range of case study landscapes that display variation in the absence or density of seasonal managed bee hives. Working with local and national bee keeping and recording groups (Scottish Beekeeper Associations; Bee Farmers Association; Bumblebee Conservation Trust; Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society) this project will aim to access key informants within local communities and use a range of methods to address the following specific objectives.

1. To determine community size and composition of wild pollinator assemblages in response to variation in honey bee density due to use of moorland habitats by bee keepers.
2. To examine flower visitation, resource use by pollinators and fruit set (blaeberries) for abundant insect-pollinated plant species when exposed to increasing densities of managed honey bee populations in the pollinator assemblage.
3. To determine the incidence of pathogens (e.g. deformed wing virus) in wild pollinator species and any correlation with the presence and abundance of managed honey bee populations indicating pathogen spill-over.

Application Process
Please apply for admission to the ’Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Science’ to ensure that your application is passed to the correct School for processing.

Please provide a copy of the degree certificate and transcript for each previous degree undertaken, a copy of your English language proficiency certificate (if relevant), and contact details of two referees who can comment on your previous academic performance (at least one should be from your current degree programme). Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project, it is for self-funded students only.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree may be considered provided they have a Distinction at Masters level.


Geldmann, J. & Gonzalez-Varo, J.P. (2018) Conserving honey bees does not help wildlife. Science, 359, 392-292.

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