The contribution of plant spatial arrangement to bumble bee flower constancy


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Floral constancy of foraging bees influences plant reproduction. Constancy as observed in nature arises from at least four distinct mechanisms frequently confounded in the literature: context-independent preferences for particular plant species, preferential visitation to the same species as the previous plant visited (simple constancy), the spatial arrangement of plants, and the relative abundances of co-flowering species. To disentangle these mechanisms, we followed individual bee flight paths within patches where all flowering plants were mapped, and we used step selection models to estimate how each mechanism influences the probability of selecting any particular plant given the available plants in a multi-species community. We found that simple constancy was positive: bees preferred to visit the same species sequentially. In addition, bees preferred to travel short distances and maintain their direction of travel between plants. After accounting for distance, we found no significant effect of site-level plant relative abundances on bee foraging choices. To explore the importance of the spatial arrangement of plants for bee foraging choices, we compared our full model containing all parameters to one with spatial arrangement removed. Due to bees’ tendency to select nearby plants, combined with strong intraspecific plant clumping, spatial arrangement was responsible for about 50% of the total observed constancy. Our results suggest that floral constancy may be overestimated in studies that do not account for the spatial arrangement of plants, especially in systems with intraspecific plant clumping. Plant spatial patterns at within-site scales are important for pollinator foraging behavior and pollination success.
Step selection,Bee foraging,Movement analysis,Pollination
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