Disparate continental scale patterns in floral host breadth of Australian colletid bees (Colletidae: Hymenoptera)

Patricia S. Slattery, Ben A. Parslow, Michael S. Y. Lee, Michael Batley, Ken L. Walker, Michael P. Schwarz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Plant-bee networks are rarely, if ever, studied quantitatively at continental scales, yet these have the potential to inform how biota and ecosystems are assembled beyond narrower regional biomes. The short-tongued bee family Colletidae comprises the major component of bee diversity in Australia, with three key subfamilies: the Neopasiphaeinae, Hylaeinae, and Euryglossinae. We use museum data (> 27,000 records) to record binary interactions between these bees (from each of these subfamilies, resolved to subgenera) and plants (resolved to genera). The resulting networks were analysed using bipartite graphs and associated indices of network structure. The three bee subfamilies showed markedly different network structures with their floral hosts. Euryglossinae had strong interactions with Myrtaceae and an otherwise relatively narrow host breadth, Neopasiphaeinae had little signal of host specialisation above genera and a very broad host breadth, and Hylaeinae appeared intermediate in network structure. Furthermore, Euryglossinae is more speciose within Australia (404 species, or ~ 25% of described Australian bee fauna) than Hylaeinae and Neopasiphaeinae, but these differences do not correspond to the stem ages of the three subfamilies, suggesting that time-since-origin does not explain bee species diversity or floral host breadth. Patterns of host breadth persist after rarefaction analyses that correct for differing numbers of observation records. We suggest that visitation networks could be influenced by evolutionary constraints to expansion of floral host breadth, but it is also possible that many bee-plant interactions are shaped by bees exploiting floral traits that are driven by non-bee fauna operating at large biogeographical scales.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Early online date28 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2023


  • Euryglossinae
  • Hylaeinae
  • Myrtaceae
  • Neopasiphaeinae
  • Pollination


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