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Choice of Individual Flowers By Bumble Bees: Interaction of Morphology, Time and Energy

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The purpose of this study was to describe the energetic mechanism underlying the choice of individual flowers of a single plant species by bumble bees. Conditions associated with selective behaviour were detected by following freely foraging bees and collecting flowers that they visited. Two types of selectivity were observed in four of thirteen groups of ten to fifteen bees: a preference for larger than average flowers when all flowers of a particular species were shallower than the lengths of the bees' glossae (= tongues); or a positive correlation between glossa length and the depth of flowers visited when glossa length approximately equalled flower depth. To explain these results an energetic model was developed based jointly on the dependence of a bee's probing time on glossa length and flower depth, and a positive correlation between flower depth and nectar production. This model was tested by an experiment with different-sized artificial flowers which contained volumes of sugar solution in direct relation to flower size. Because all flowers were shallower than the glossa lengths of the tested bees, a preference for the largest flowers was expected. Over a series of trials three of four bees fed in the expected pattern. Selective behaviour was reflected in very different patterns of size-related flower visitation, which depended on the particular characteristics of both bees and flowers.

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/content/journals/10.1163/156853988x00601
1988-01-01
2015-01-26

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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