Pollen-Foraging Dynamics of Subalpine Bumblebees (Bombus Latr.)



Abstract A 23-year study on Mount Rainier of nectar-foraging hummingbirds and pollen-foraging bumblebees (Bom-bus Latr.) indicated a constant relative frequency of Bombus species in the area and a wide occurrence of insect species on flowers plus a wide range of flower species pollinated by a single insect. Early-blooming plants had a high queen/worker pollinator ratio, while workers predominated on later-blooming plants. No altitudinal difference in distribution of Bombus species occurred. Analysis of 955 corbicular pollen loads from 1158 bumblebees collected yielded 49.5% monolecty for queens and 34.5% for workers with a wider range for queens than for workers. Colors of corollas photographed in visible and ultraviolet light corresponded to the visual spectra of animal pollinators. In the stable plant-pollinator community investigated, pollinating insect activity appears phenologically controlled by floral anthesis and behaviorally related to floral form and function. Bumblebee tongue length, however. Is not a valid determinant for foraging niche separation except in Castilleja with a deep corolla tube accommodating long tongues of hummingbirds and bumblebees. It is concluded that in a biotic community well-coordinated with the physical environment, limited flower constancy of pollen-foraging pollinators appears to contribute a necessary degree of adaptive versatility through sharing of insect and floral resources. Flower constancy is primarily a function of the circumstance in which a pollinator operates and not simply a characteristic of the pollinator itself.