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Oecologia

, Volume 82, Issue 1, pp 137–144 | Cite as

Do foraging bumblebees scent-mark food sources and does it matter?

  • Ulrich Schmitt
  • Andreas Bertsch
Original Papers

Summary

The foraging of worker bees of Bombus terrestris visiting artificial feeders in a climatic test chamber was investigated. The behaviour of worker bees visiting rewarding and unrewarding feeders is completely different. Of all flower visits to rewarding feeders 94% are probing-visits, i.e. the bees land on the flower and probe for nectar. In contrast, only 0.3% of all visits to unrewarding feeders are probing-visits, whereas 47% are approach-visits, i.e., the bees approach the feeders without landing. Exchanging feeder discs proves that the signal used for discrimination must be associated with the plastic disc used as landing platform. Most probably it involves scent-marking of the rewarding feeders with components of high and low volatility. The mean foraging efficiency of bees in a scent-marked foraging arena is 5.7 mg sugar/min and drops to 2.8 mg sugar/min after the scent marked discs are replaced by clean ones. Three components generate this drop in foraging efficiency: (1) the between-flower flight time increases, i.e. the bees search for a longer time before landing on flowers, (2) the bees no longer discriminate between rewarding and unrewarding feeders, and (3) the bees probe empty feeders longer than necessary; obviously they expect to find nectar.

Key words

Bombus Flower-visit Scent marking Foraging-efficiency 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ulrich Schmitt
    • 1
  • Andreas Bertsch
    • 1
  1. 1.Fachbereich Biologie der Philipps UniversitätMarburgGermany

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