Conserving All the Pollinators: Variation in Probability of Pollen Transport among Insect Taxa

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Abstract

As concern about declining pollinator populations mounts, it is important to understand the range of insect taxa that provide pollination services. We use pollen transport information acquired over three years in two habitats at Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA, to compare probabilities of pollen transport among insect taxa and between sexes of bees. Sampling was conducted on 1-ha plots, eight in sparse vegetation (May-October samples; N = 74 surveys) and 12 in wheatgrass prairie vegetation (June-July samples; N = 87 surveys). Insects contacting reproductive parts of flowers were netted, placed individually into tubes charged with ethyl acetate, then transferred to individual labeled glassine envelopes for transport to the lab. Pollen was removed from insect bodies with fuchsin jelly cubes which were then mounted on microscope slides for identification. The probability of taxa transporting only conspecific pollen (with respect to the plant species upon which it was collected), mixed pollen, only non-conspecific, or no pollen was estimated with multinomial logistic regression. Bees were the most commonly captured flower visitor and carried by far the most pollen (females >10× as much as males), but they were most likely to carry mixed pollen loads. Flies, beetles, and wasps were also common flower visitors and beetles were most likely to carry only conspecific pollen. Ants and diurnal lepidopterans were unlikely to carry any pollen. Bees, beetles, flies, and wasps varied in the timing and habitat in which they were most likely to transport pollen, suggesting that all played a role in providing robust pollination services.

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Larson, Di. L., Larson, J. L., & Buhl, D. A. (2018). Conserving All the Pollinators: Variation in Probability of Pollen Transport among Insect Taxa. Natural Areas Journal, 38(5), 393–401. https://doi.org/10.3375/043.038.0508

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