Biodiv Sci ›› 2012, Vol. 20 ›› Issue (3): 405-408.  DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1003.2012.04031

Special Issue: 传粉生物学:理论探讨与初步实践 传粉生物学 昆虫多样性与生态功能

• Research Bulletins • Previous Articles    

Flight patterns of bumblebees (Bombus ignitus) on vertical inflorescences of Aconitum kusnezoffii

Haiping Ma, Dahe Zhao, Wanjin Liao*()   

  1. State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology, Beijing 100875
  • Received:2012-01-19 Accepted:2012-02-17 Online:2012-05-20 Published:2012-05-09
  • Contact: Wanjin Liao


Nectar-collecting bumblebees usually move upward while foraging in consecutive flowers on vertical inflorescences. This tendency to successively move upwards has been suggested to be a direct response to available nectar rewards. Therefore, bumblebees starting at bottom flowers will visit the most rewarding flowers first. An alternative explanation is that bumblebees have a better view of the flowers above than those below and they fly to those they can most readily see while maintaining an upright orientation. To evaluate these two hypotheses, we recorded flight patterns of bumblebee (Bombus ignitus) nectar foraging behaviors on upward and downward vertical inflorescences of monkshood (Aconitum kusnezoffii) and measured the difference in the reward for bumblebee from nectar between lower (female phase) and upper (male phase) flowers. We found significant support for the hypothesis explaining bottom-to-up flights while visiting upward vertical inflorescences. Nectar analysis indicated that both nectar volume and sugar content in lower female-phase flowers were significantly higher than those in upper male-phase flowers. Our findings suggest that B. ignitus forage from more to less rewarding flowers and depart when gain of reward is low. We also noted bottom-to-up foraging behaviors for both the downward and upward vertical inflorescences. However, pollinators started from less rewarding male-phase flowers, which was inconsistent with the declining reward hypothesis. Our results suggest that gender-biased nectar production towards the female phase does not directly regulate bumblebee foraging sequences, but rather attract bumblebees starting from the bottom female-phase flowers.

Key words: bumblebee, declining reward hypothesis, flight pattern, nectar production, vertical inflorescence