The influence of relative plant density and floral morphological complexity on the behaviour of bumblebees
We assessed the combined effects of varying the relative density and the relative floral morphological complexity of plant species on the behaviour of their bumblebee pollinators. Three species of bumblebee (Bombus pascuorum, B. terrestris and B. hortorum) were observed foraging on experimental arrays consisting of pair-wise combinations of four plant species: Borago officinalis, Phacelia tanacetifolia (both with simple flowers), Antirrhinum majus and Linaria vulgaris (both with complex flowers). Plant arrangements consisted of either two simple-flower species, a simple with a complex species or two complex species. The number of plants in each array was constant, while the frequency of each species was manipulated so that it was either rare, equal or common compared with its competitor. Contrary to predictions, rare plants were actually at an advantage in terms of the number of bees attracted per plant. However, rare plants were at a disadvantage in terms of pollen wastage because foragers more often went to a flower of another species after visiting a rare plant. The behaviour of bees on each plant species was further affected by plant floral complexity and the identity of the other species in the array. The three bumblebee species were markedly different in their foraging behaviour and in their responses to varying floral density and complexity. Each species preferred particular flower species. The results are discussed with reference to resource partitioning among bumblebee species.
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