Researchers have reported findings that offer a surprising new twist to our understanding of how bumblebees, a vital floral pollinator, select the flowers from which they collect nectar. When faced with unfamiliar plants, foraging bees do not choose flowers entirely alone but instead copy the choices of other bees. The new findings suggest that bees adjust their behavior when dealing with flowers of unfamiliar plant species.
The observations are reported in the June 21 issue of Current Biology in a new paper by Elli Leadbeater and Lars Chittka of Queen Mary, University of London.
Bumblebees are highly social insects, but they do not recruit nestmates to feeding locations, and foragers have therefore been thought to rely mainly on individual experience when seeking out rewarding flowers. The role of other bees in these decisions has been considered only in the context of deterrence because the small scent marks that foragers leave after emptying flowers dissuade others from visiting.
Heidi Hardman | EurekAlert!
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