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Local floral composition and the behaviour of pollinators: attraction to and foraging within experimental patches


Amparo Lázaro, Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway. E-mail:


1. Understanding how foraging decisions take place at the local scale is relevant because they may directly affect the fitness of individual plants. However, little is known about how local diversity and density affect the foraging behaviour of most pollinator groups.

2. By introducing two potted plant species (Salvia farinacae and Tagetes bonanza) into two populations of Taraxacum officinale, we investigated how plant identity, the mixtures of these plant species, and total plant density affected the attraction to and the foraging within a patch for six pollinator groups.

3. The foraging behaviour was mainly driven by the availability of the preferred plant species, and secondly by patch diversity and density. In general, dense patches and those containing the three-species mixture were preferred by all insect groups for arrival, although muscoid and hover flies responded less to local floral composition than bees. Local diversity and density had, however, a weaker effect on foraging behaviour within patches. Site dependence in response to floral treatments could be attributable to differences between sites in pollinator assemblage and Taraxacum density.

4. Studies like ours will help to understand how foraging decisions occur at the local scale and how foraging patterns may differ between pollinators and sites.