Nectar discovery speeds and multimodal displays: assessing nectar search times in bees with radiating and non-radiating guides

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Abstract

Floral displays are often composed of areas of contrasting stimuli which flower visitors use as guides, increasing both foraging efficiency and the likelihood of pollen transfer. Many aspects of how these displays benefit foraging efficiency are still unexplored, particularly those surrounding multimodal signals and the spatial arrangement of the display components. We compare the nectar discovery times of forager bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) when presented with artificial flowers with unimodal or compound displays of visual and/or olfactory stimuli, positioned in either radiating or non-radiating arrangements. We found that the addition of individual display components from either modality reduces nectar discovery time but there was no time benefit to bimodal displays over unimodal displays or any benefit to radiating stimuli arrangements over non-radiating arrangements. However, preference tests revealed a time advantage to radiating unimodal visual patterns over non-radiating unimodal visual patterns when both types were displayed simultaneously. These results suggest that the benefits of multimodal stimuli arrangements to pollinators are unrelated to benefits in nectar discovery time. Our results also suggest that spatial patterns of scent can be used as nectar guides and can reduce nectar discovery times without the aid of visual stimuli.

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Lawson, D. A., Whitney, H. M., & Rands, S. A. (2017). Nectar discovery speeds and multimodal displays: assessing nectar search times in bees with radiating and non-radiating guides. Evolutionary Ecology, 31(6), 899–912. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10682-017-9916-1

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