Effects of nectar concentration and flower depth on flower handling efficiency of bumble bees
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- Harder, L.D. Oecologia (1986) 69: 309. doi:10.1007/BF00377639
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Fluid viscosity only affected ingestion rates of bumble bees (Bombus) for solutions greater than 35–40% sucrose (mass of solute per mass of solution). This contrasts with previously published models based on fluid dynamics which predicted continuous depression of ingestion rates with increasing viscosity. Individual bees maintained constant lapping rates regardless of sucrose concentration (up to at least 70%). The decline in ingestion rates at higher concentrations apparently resulted from the tongue not contacting liquid long enough to become saturated due to reduced capillary flow. Increasing flower depth similarly decreased the volume of liquid ingested per lap, and did not affect lapping rate. Morphologically dissimilar bees drank at different rates because glossa length affects lapping rate and volume ingested per lap, and body mass affects lapping rate. An additional species-specific component to lapping rate also influenced ingestion rates. Deviations from a regression model derived to explain ingestion rates as a function of glossa length, body mass, flower depth and liquid viscosity suggest mechanistic and behavioralaspects to flower probing time. Because of the relation between ingestion rate and liquid viscosity, the sucrose concentration maximizing a bee's rate of net energy uptake should lie between 50–65%, depending primarily on specific conditions of nectar volume, inflorescence size and flight time between inflorescences.