Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Big bees do a better job: intraspecific size variation influences pollination effectiveness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Bumblebees (Bombus spp.) are efficient pollinators of many flowering plants, yet the pollen deposition performance of individual bees has not been investigated. Worker bumblebees exhibit large intraspecific and intra-nest size variation, in contrast with other eusocial bees; and their size influences collection and deposition of pollen grains.

Laboratory studies with B. terrestris workers and Vinca minor flowers showed that pollen grains deposited on stigmas in single visits (SVD) were significantly positively related to bee size; larger bees deposited more grains, while the smallest individuals, with proportionally shorter tongues, were unable to collect or deposit pollen in these flowers. Individuals did not increase their pollen deposition over time, so handling experience does not influence SVD in Vinca minor.

Field studies using Geranium sanguineum and Echium vulgare, and multiple visiting species, confirmed that individual size affects SVD. All bumblebee species showed size effects, though even the smallest individuals did deposit pollen, whereas there was no detectable effect with Apis with its limited size variation. Two abundant hoverfly species also showed size effects, particularly when feeding for nectar.

Mean size of foragers also varied diurnally, with larger individuals active earlier and later, so that pollination effectiveness varies through a day; flowers routinely pollinated by bees may best be served by early morning dehiscence and visits from larger individuals.

Thus, while there are well-documented species-level variations in pollination effectiveness, the fine-scale individual differences between foragers should also be taken into account when assessing the reproductive outputs of biotically-pollinated plants.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)244-254
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pollination Ecology
Volume14
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014

    Research areas

  • Pollinator, Pollen deposition, Bumblebee, Body size, Intraspecific variation

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Estimating pollinator performance of visitors to the self-incompatible crop-plant Brassica rapa by single visit deposition and pollen germination: a comparison of methods

    Patchett, R. B., Ballantyne, G. A. & Willmer, P. G., 1 Dec 2017, In: Journal of Pollination Ecology. 21, 3, p. 78-85 8 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  2. A dual function for 4-methoxybenzaldehyde in Petasites fragrans? Pollinator-attractant and ant-repellent

    Pattrick, J. G., Shepherd, T., Hoppitt, W., Plowman, N. S. & Willmer, P., Oct 2017, In: Arthropod-Plant Interactions. 11, 5, p. 623-627 5 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  3. Pollinator importance networks illustrate the crucial value of bees in a highly speciose plant community

    Ballantyne, G., Baldock, K. C. R., Rendell, L. & Willmer, P. G., 21 Aug 2017, In: Scientific Reports. 7, 13 p., 8389.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  4. Insights from measuring pollen deposition: quantifying the pre-eminence of bees as flower visitors and effective pollinators

    Willmer, P. G., Cunnold, H. E. & Ballantyne, G. A., Jun 2017, In: Arthropod-Plant Interactions. 11, 3, p. 411-425 15 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  5. Constructing more informative plant-pollinator networks: visitation and pollen deposition networks in a heathland plant community

    Ballantyne, G. A., Baldock, K. C. R. & Willmer, P. G., 2 Sep 2015, In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 282, 9 p., 20151130.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Related by journal

  1. Estimating pollinator performance of visitors to the self-incompatible crop-plant Brassica rapa by single visit deposition and pollen germination: a comparison of methods

    Patchett, R. B., Ballantyne, G. A. & Willmer, P. G., 1 Dec 2017, In: Journal of Pollination Ecology. 21, 3, p. 78-85 8 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

ID: 162433236

Top