The bumblebee Bombus hortorum is the main pollinating visitor to Digitalis purpurea (Common Foxglove) in a U.K. population
Specialization in plant-pollinator systems represents an important issue for both the ecological understanding and conservation of these systems. We investigated the extent to which the bumblebee Bombus hortorum (Linnaeus) is the main potential pollinator of Common Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea L. Twenty D. purpurea patches were selected in North Yorkshire, U.K., ten each in woodland and garden or park habitat. All insects visiting D. purpurea within the patches were recorded over seventy 30-min bouts. The relative frequency of insect visitors to other flowering plant species within 15 m of each patch was also determined. B. hortorum and B. pascuorum were the two most frequent visitors to D. purpurea, accounting for 82 - 92% and 3 -17%, respectively, of all insect visits (n = 1682), depending on habitat. B. hortorum showed a significant preference for visiting D. purpurea relative to its frequency of visits to other available plant species. The relationship of D. purpurea with B. hortorum, which pollinates several plant species with long corollas, therefore represents a potential case of asymmetric specialization, albeit one that may vary spatially. Because D. purpurea reproduction appears dependent on insect pollination, B. hortorum and B. pascuorum may help underpin the viability of D. purpurea populations.
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