Specificity and mutual dependency of the orchid-euglossine bee interaction



    1. Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, U.S.A. and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apdo. 2072, Balboa, Panamá
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    • *Department of Biology, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico 00931, U.S.A.


Seasonal and geographic relationships, and host pollinator specificities are examined for indications of interdependency in the orchid-euglossine bee interaction. The orchids are dependent on the bees for pollination, and their flowering seasonality corresponds well with peak activity of their pollinators. However, there is little evidence that the bees are dependent on these fragrance hosts. The orchids tap the majority of euglossine species and individuals for pollinator services during any given season, but most of those bee species that temporarily lack orchid fragrance hosts persist in the area, continually emerge from nests, and seek floral fragrance compounds. Pollinator specificity occurs in less than half of the orchids, and host specificity is rare. Geographic distributions of nearly all orchid-pollinator pairs are not mutually inclusive. Moreover, nearly a third of the local male euglossine bee species censused are not pollinators of any fragrance orchids in the area. Local alternative fragrance sources occur. The orchid-male euglossine bee interaction does not appear to represent a mutually obligatory relationship. The orchids may have exploited a preexisting behavioural phenomenon of the bees, and reciprocal evolutionary responses may not have occurred.