|Iliamna bakeri, a rare, fire-following mallow in NE California|
Many bee pollinators are “specialists” on their host plants, collecting pollen only from a preferred plant to feed their offspring. Many biologists have wondered why this is so, and whether bee-plant specialization is advantageous for either the bee or the plant. Some think bee specialists have become more “efficient” at collecting the host plant pollen than other bees, and provision their nests faster. All solitary bees have a limited window to provision their nests, and pollen collecting trips are particularly time consuming.
We tested the efficiency hypothesis using a solitary, ground-nesting bee, Diadasia nitidifrons, which is a mallow specialist on Iliamna bakeri in the northwest USA.