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The pollination potential of free-foraging bumblebee (Bombus spp.) males (Hymenoptera: Apidae)

Abstract

Bumblebee workers are efficient pollinators. However, despite their flower visits and less intense grooming the role of males as pollen vectors is largely unexplored. We compared the quantity and diversity of pollen on the bodies (pollination-active pollen) of free-foraging workers and males of two bumblebee species (Bombus lapidarius and Bombus terrestris) to assess their pollination potential. In both species, males exhibit worker-like flower constancy, but differ significantly from workers in the predominantly collected pollen types. Mean pollen loads of approximately 10,000 grains/individual suggest that males can contribute to the colony pollination service. Bumblebee males add to the diversity of pollinators, associated to increased crop pollination and facilitate pollen flow in specific ways, worthwhile further investigation.

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Acknowledgments

We like to thank Susan Brich, Stephanie Gerschke, Diana Oelschlägel, Olga Skljar and Maria Tauber for valuable help during field work. Thanks to F. B. Kraus and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments that clearly improved the manuscript. This study was funded by the EU—Project ALARM (Assessing LArge scale Risks for biodiversity with tested Methods; Pollinator Module, EU Contract No.: 506675). Rothamsted Research is a national institute of bioscience strategically funded by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

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Correspondence to Stephan Wolf.

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Le potentiel de pollinisation des bourdons mâles, Bombus spp. (Hymenoptera: Apidae) butinant pour eux-mêmes

Bourdon / mâle / charge pollinique / rôle pollinisateur d’une colonie/fidélité florale

Das Bestäubungspotential von freifliegenden Hummelmännchen (Bombus spp., Hymenoptera: Apidae)

Hummelmännchen / Pollenladungen / Bestäubungsservice / Blütenstetigkeit

Manuscript editor: James Nieh

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Wolf, S., Moritz, R.F.A. The pollination potential of free-foraging bumblebee (Bombus spp.) males (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Apidologie 45, 440–450 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13592-013-0259-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13592-013-0259-9

Keywords

  • bumblebee males
  • pollen loads
  • colony pollination service
  • flower constancy