Floral Nectar Guide Patterns Discourage Nectar Robbing by Bumble Bees

Anne S. Leonard, Joshua Brent, Daniel R. Papaj, Anna Dornhaus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Scopus citations

Abstract

Floral displays are under selection to both attract pollinators and deter antagonists. Here we show that a common floral trait, a nectar guide pattern, alters the behavior of bees that can act opportunistically as both pollinators and as antagonists. Generally, bees access nectar via the floral limb, transporting pollen through contact with the plant's reproductive structures; however bees sometimes extract nectar from a hole in the side of the flower that they or other floral visitors create. This behavior is called "nectar robbing" because bees may acquire the nectar without transporting pollen. We asked whether the presence of a symmetric floral nectar guide pattern on artificial flowers affected bumble bees' (Bombus impatiens) propensity to rob or access nectar "legitimately." We discovered that nectar guides made legitimate visits more efficient for bees than robbing, and increased the relative frequency of legitimate visits, compared to flowers lacking nectar guides. This study is the first to show that beyond speeding nectar discovery, a nectar guide pattern can influence bees' flower handling in a way that could benefit the plant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere55914
JournalPloS one
Volume8
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 13 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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