Pollinator effectiveness is affected by intraindividual behavioral variation


Variation in pollinator quality is fundamental to the evolution of plant-pollinator mutualisms and such variation frequently results from differences in foraging behavior. Surprisingly, despite substantial intraindividual variation in pollinator foraging behavior, the consequences for pollen removal and deposition on flowers are largely unknown. We asked how two pollen foraging behaviors of a generalist pollinator (Bombus impatiens) affect removal and deposition of heterospecific and conspecific pollen, key aspects of pollinator quality, for multiple plant species. In addition, we examined how bee body size and pollen placement among body parts shaped pollen movement. We manipulated foraging behavior types using artificial flowers, which donated pollen that captive bees then deposited on three recipient plant species. While body size primarily affected donor pollen removal, foraging behavior primarily affected donor pollen deposition. How behavior affected donor pollen deposition depended on the plant species and the quantity of donor pollen on the bee's abdomen. Plant species with smaller stigmas received significantly less pollen and fewer bees successfully transferred pollen to them. For a single plant species, heterospecific pollen interfered with conspecific pollen deposition, such that more heterospecific pollen on the bee's abdomen resulted in less conspecific pollen deposition on the flower. Thus, intraindividual variation in foraging behavior and its interaction with the amount and placement of acquired pollen and with floral morphology can affect pollinator quality and may shape plant fitness via both conspecific and heterospecific pollen transfer.



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Conspecific pollen, Foraging behavior, Heterospecific pollen, Interspecific pollen transfer, Pollination quality

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