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Patch dynamics of a foraging assemblage of bees

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The composition and dynamics of foraging assemblages of bees were examined from the standpoint of species-level arrival and departure processes in patches of flowers. Experiments with bees visiting 4 different species of flowers in subalpine meadows in Colorado gave the following results:

  1. 1)

    In enriched patches the rates of departure of bees were reduced, resulting in increases in both the number of bees per species and the average number of species present.

  2. 2)

    The reduction in bee departure rates from enriched patches was due to mechanical factors-increased flower handling time, and to behavioral factors-an increase in the number of flowers visited per inflorescence and in the number of inflorescences visited per patch. Bees foraging in enriched patches could collect nectar 30–45% faster than those foraging in control patches.

  3. 3)

    The quantitative changes in foraging assemblages due to enrichment, in terms of means and variances of species population sizes, fraction of time a species was present in a patch, and in mean and variance of the number of species present, were in reasonable agreement with predictions drawn from queuing theory and studies in island biogeography.

  4. 4)

    Experiments performed with 2 species of flowers with different corolla tube lengths demonstrated that manipulation of resources of differing availability had unequal effects on particular subsets of the larger foraging community.

The arrival-departure process of bees on flowers and the immigration-extinction process of species on islands are contrasted, and the value of the stochastic, species-level approach to community composition is briefly discussed.

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Wright, D.H. Patch dynamics of a foraging assemblage of bees. Oecologia 65, 558–565 (1985).

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  • Community Composition
  • Reasonable Agreement
  • Departure Rate
  • Tube Length
  • Quantitative Change