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Bee community composition, but not diversity, is influenced by floret size in cultivated sunflowers


Nectar-related traits influence the number of bee visits to sunflowers, but the effects of floret size on the diversity and composition of bee communities are unknown. In 4 year × planting date combinations, bees were collected from sunflowers with small (< 7.5 mm), medium (7.5–9 mm), or large (> 9 mm) florets, and counts of foraging bees were used to clarify bee responses to plant traits. No effect of floret size on diversity of foraging bees was found, but associations of bee tongue length and floret size led to differences in the communities foraging on sunflowers with small, medium, or large florets. Though most wild bees preferred to forage on plants with more nectar and smaller florets (≈ easier access to nectar), Bombus spp. showed an opposite response to floret size, foraging preferentially on lines with large florets. Changes in Melissodes spp. foraging preference in the presence of Bombus spp. also suggest interactions between small- and large-bodied bees may be important.

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Data used in this manuscript can be made reasonably available upon request.

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We thank Lisa Brown (USDA), Ben Glogoza, Robert Brenner, and Shawna Pantzke (NDSU) for their help collecting insect specimens and plant material from the field. Additional thanks to Brian Otteson (NDSU) at the NDSU Agronomy Seed Farm for site selection and field preparation, as well as Brady Keohler and Mike Grove (USDA) for help with planting. Funding through USDA-ARS project 3060-21000-043-00-D, “Genetic Enhancement of Sunflower Yield and Tolerance to Biotic Stress.”


Research funding was provided by the USDA-ARS project 3060–21000-043–00-D, “Genetic Enhancement of Sunflower Yield and Tolerance to Biotic Stress.”

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Beth Ferguson and Jarrad Prasifka contributed to the study design and conception. Data collection and analysis were performed by Beth Ferguson. Bee identifications were confirmed by Rachel Mallinger. The manuscript was written by Beth Ferguson, and all authors commented on prior versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Beth Ferguson.

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This research was conducted using an unregulated invertebrate species; therefore, approval from a research ethics committee was not required.

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Manuscript editor: Mathieu Lihoreau

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Ferguson, B., Mallinger, R.E. & Prasifka, J.R. Bee community composition, but not diversity, is influenced by floret size in cultivated sunflowers. Apidologie 52, 1210–1222 (2021).

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  • Community composition
  • Diversity
  • Sunflower
  • Melissodes
  • Bombus