Journal Article Foraging responses of bumble bees to rewardless floral patches: importance of within-plant variance in nectar presentation

Nakamura, Shoko  ,  Kudo, Gaku

8p.plw037 , 2018-02-16 , Oxford University Press
Spatiotemporal variation in nectar distribution is a key factor affecting pollinator movements between flowers and plants within a population. Pollinators having systematic searching ability can flexibly respond to the reward condition of floral patches, and they tend to revisit rewarding patches. However, foraging behaviour may be influenced by the nectar distribution within populations. To evaluate the effects of unrewarding experiences and plant distribution, we compared bumble bee foraging behaviours between naturally rewarding and artificially rewardless (by nectary removal) patches in two aconite populations with different plant densities. Visitation frequency to the patches, number of successive flower visits within inflorescences, and successive inflorescence visits within patches were recorded. Nectar production and standing crop were also measured. Bumble bees increased the movements between neighbouring inflorescences instead of leaving the patches when they faced rewardless flowers. A large variance in nectar production existed among flowers within plants. This might explain the observed bumble bee behaviour, because they could be rewarded by moving to the adjacent inflorescences even after a rewardless experience. Our results imply that a highly variable nectar reward in a population might mask the disadvantage of completely rewardless individuals.

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