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The innate responses of bumble bees to flower patterns: separating the nectar guide from the nectary changes bee movements and search time.

  • Author(s): Goodale, Eben;
  • Kim, Edward;
  • Nabors, Annika;
  • Henrichon, Sara;
  • Nieh, James C
  • et al.

Nectar guides can enhance pollinator efficiency and plant fitness by allowing pollinators to more rapidly find and remember the location of floral nectar. We tested if a radiating nectar guide around a nectary would enhance the ability of naïve bumble bee foragers to find nectar. Most experiments that test nectar guide efficacy, specifically radiating linear guides, have used guides positioned around the center of a radially symmetric flower, where nectaries are often found. However, the flower center may be intrinsically attractive. We therefore used an off-center guide and nectary and compared "conjunct" feeders with a nectar guide surrounding the nectary to "disjunct" feeders with a nectar guide separated from the nectary. We focused on the innate response of novice bee foragers that had never previously visited such feeders. We hypothesized that a disjunct nectar guide would conflict with the visual information provided by the nectary and negatively affect foraging. Approximately, equal numbers of bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) found nectar on both feeder types. On disjunct feeders, however, unsuccessful foragers spent significantly more time (on average 1.6-fold longer) searching for nectar than any other forager group. Successful foragers on disjunct feeders approached these feeders from random directions unlike successful foragers on conjunct feeders, which preferentially approached the combined nectary and nectar guide. Thus, the nectary and a surrounding nectar guide can be considered a combination of two signals that attract naïve foragers even when not in the floral center.

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