Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 476-483

First online:

Nectar Minerals as Regulators of Flower Visitation in Stingless Bees and Nectar Hoarding Wasps

  • Ohad AfikAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology, University of Georgia Email author 
  • , Keith S. DelaplaneAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology, University of Georgia
  • , Sharoni ShafirAffiliated withB. Triwaks Bee Research Center, Department of Entomology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • , Humberto Moo-ValleAffiliated withDepartamento de Apicultura, Campus Ciencias Biológicas y Agropecuarias, Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan
  • , J. Javier G. Quezada-EuánAffiliated withDepartamento de Apicultura, Campus Ciencias Biológicas y Agropecuarias, Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan

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Various nectar components have a repellent effect on flower visitors, and their adaptive advantages for the plant are not well understood. Persea americana (avocado) is an example of a plant that secretes nectar with repellent components. It was demonstrated that the mineral constituents of this nectar, mainly potassium and phosphate, are concentrated enough to repel honey bees, Apis mellifera, a pollinator often used for commercial avocado pollination. Honey bees, however, are not the natural pollinator of P. americana, a plant native to Central America. In order to understand the role of nectar minerals in plant—pollinator relationships, it is important to focus on the plant’s interactions with its natural pollinators. Two species of stingless bees and one species of social wasp, all native to the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, part of the natural range of P. americana, were tested for their sensitivity to sugar solutions enriched with potassium and phosphate, and compared with the sensitivity of honey bees. In choice tests between control and mineral-enriched solutions, all three native species were indifferent for mineral concentrations lower than those naturally occurring in P. americana nectar. Repellence was expressed at concentrations near or exceeding natural concentrations. The threshold point at which native pollinators showed repellence to increasing levels of minerals was higher than that detected for honey bees. The results do not support the hypothesis that high mineral content is attractive for native Hymenopteran pollinators; nevertheless, nectar mineral composition may still have a role in regulating flower visitors through different levels of repellency.


Avocado Nannotrigona perilampoides Phosphorus Pollination Polybia Potassium Trigona (=Frieseomelitta) nigra Hymenoptera Apoidea Vespoidea