08 August, 2018

The effect of flower spacing on Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens) visitation

by Emma Katz and Carla Essenberg

Bumble bees feeding on artificial flower.
Photograph by Emma Katz
Most flowering plant species in nature rely on insect pollination to reproduce, and most of these plants offer nectar rewards to pollinators to encourage them to return. Interestingly, some groups of flowering plants, like orchids, do not offer any rewards, and it is interesting how these non-rewarding plants are able to attract pollinators and compete with other, rewarding plants for pollinator visits. 

In this study, the goal was to see how the non-rewarding plants should grow with respect to a rewarding species to receive the best visits from pollinators. I tested this using bumble bees with two flower types—blue (rewarding) and purple (non-rewarding)—arranged in one of two ways—mixed together or grouped into clumps by species. I collected data on the number of visits to each color, switches between colors, and consecutive visits to the same color. I found that the intermixed arrangement caused more visits to the non-rewarding flowers, but also caused more switching between flower types, which is bad for both plant species.

Read the scientific publication in JPE.

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