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Does the Flower Constancy of Bumble Bees Reflect Foraging Economics?


Robert J. Gegear, Department of Zoology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada M5S 3G5. E-mail:


We examined the effects of floral reward level and spatial arrangement on the propensity of bumble bees to exhibit flower constancy. In three separate experiments, we compared the flower constancy of bees on dimorphic arrays of blue and yellow flowers that differed either in reward concentration, reward volume, or inter-flower distance. Overall, flower choice patterns varied among bees, ranging from random selection to complete constancy. When flowers contained greater reward volumes and were spaced farther apart, bees showed less flower constancy and more moves to closely neighbouring flowers. Changes in reward concentration had no effect on flower constancy; however, more dilute rewards produced shorter flight times between flowers. In addition, there was a strong positive relationship between degree of flower constancy and net rate of energy gain when flowers were spaced farther apart, indicating that constant bees were more economic foragers than inconstant bees. Together, these results support the view that the flower constancy of pollinators reflects an economic foraging decision.

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