, Volume 64, Issue 3, pp 287–294 | Cite as

Partial preference of insects for the male flowers of an annual herb

  • G. Bell
  • L. Lefebvre
  • L. -A. Giraldeau
  • D. Weary
Original Papers


The flowers of the annual herb Impatiens capensis have distinct male and female phases. The male phase lasts four times as long as the female phase, and male flowers contain about 50% more nectar than female flowers. This suggests that the bulk of allocation to the flower is designed to ensure the dispersal of pollen rather than the fertilization of ovules. Honeybees, wasps and bumble bees all land on male flowers more often than would be expected by chance, and, having landed, wasps and bumble bees are more likely to enter a male flower than a female flower. The frequency of male flowers in the diet therefore exceeds their frequency in the population. This preference, although strong and consistent, is only partial, since some female flowers are included in the diet. We propose two hypotheses to account for the observed partial preference, the first based on competition between bees for flowers, and the second asserting that the bees detect nectar levels directly without using floral gender as a cue. The results of an experiment in which the most obvious gender cue, the androecium, was removed are consistent with the second hypothesis.


Female Flower Male Flower Annual Herb Partial Preference Male Phase 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Bell
    • 1
  • L. Lefebvre
    • 1
  • L. -A. Giraldeau
    • 1
  • D. Weary
    • 1
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentMcGill UniversityMontréalCanada

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