The behaviour of Bombus impatiens (Apidae, Bombini) on tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill., Solanaceae) flowers: pollination and reward perception
The foraging behaviour of pollinators can influence their efficiency in pollinating certain plant species. Improving our understanding of this behaviour can contribute to an improvement of management techniques to avoid pollination deficits. We investigated the relationship between the number of visits of bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) to tomato flowers (Lycopersicon esculentum) and two variables related to the quality of the resulting fruits (weight, number of seeds), as well as the relationship between foragers’ thoracic weights, physical characteristics of thoracic vibrations (main frequency, velocity amplitude), amount of pollen removed from flowers, and the quality-related variables. In addition, we studied the capability of foragers to assess the availability of pollen in flowers. Tomato weight and seed number did not increase with the number of bee visits, neither were they correlated with the foragers’ thorax weight. Thorax weight also did not correlate with the amount of pollen removed from the flowers nor with the physical characteristics of vibration. Vibration characteristics did not change in response to the amount of pollen available on tomato flowers. Instead, foragers adjusted the time spent visiting the flowers, spending fewer time on flowers from which some pollen had already been removed on previous visits. The quantity and the production-related variables of tomatoes are not dependent on the number of bee visits (usually one visit suffices for full pollination); bigger foragers are not more efficient in pollinating tomato flowers than smaller ones; and B. impatiens foragers are capable of evaluating the amount of pollen on a flower while foraging and during pollination.
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