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Primary nectar robbing by Apis mellifera (Apidae) on Pyrostegia venusta (Bignoniaceae): behavior, pillaging rate, and its consequences


The interactions between plants and their pollinators are the result of convergent evolution of floral attributes reflecting pressure exerted by pollinators. Nonetheless, the strategies employed by floral visitors to collect floral resources are extremely complex, and commonly involve theft or robbery in addition to pollination. We describe here the behavioral repertory of Apis mellifera during the collection of the floral resources, and evaluated the robbing rates of A. mellifera on the buds and flowers of Pyrostegia venusta during periods of intense and sparse flowering. We recorded the behaviors exhibited by foraging bees while collecting floral resources, quantified the numbers of floral buds and flowers with perforations in their corolla tissues, and determined whether that damage reduced nectar production. The evaluations were conducted during two distinct periods: during the period of intense flowering of P. venusta, and during the period of sparse flowering. Nectar robbing was observed during 93.4% of the visits of foraging A. mellifera bees, while nectar theft was observed during only 0.7% of the visits, and pollen theft during 5.9%. The robbing of floral buds and flowers was most intense during the period of heavy flowering. Flowers that had been intensely robbed secreted significantly less nectar than those non-robbed. The unusual nectar robbing activities of A. mellifera, especially during the period of intense flowering indicates an optimization of access to larger volumes of food resources. Our results therefore point to a major limitation of nectar per floral unit during the intense flowering period of P. venusta due to the high activity of nectar robbing by A. mellifera bees.

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Leandro P. Polatto conceived the main idea of the research; collected, processed, and analyzed the samples; and wrote the text; Valter V. Alves Junior contributed to the interpretation of the data, and to the writing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Leandro P. Polatto.

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Polatto, L.P., Alves-Junior, V.V. Primary nectar robbing by Apis mellifera (Apidae) on Pyrostegia venusta (Bignoniaceae): behavior, pillaging rate, and its consequences. acta ethol 25, 25–32 (2022).

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  • Nectar depletion
  • Nectar theft
  • Pollen theft
  • Pollination