Artificial pollen dispensing flowers and feeders for bee behaviour experiments
The study of foraging behaviour in plant-pollinator mutualisms has benefitted from the use of artificial flowers to manipulate floral display traits and the delivery of floral rewards. The two most common floral rewards are pollen and nectar; some pollinators, such as bees, are obliged to collect both for survival and reproduction. While flexible designs for artificial flowers providing nectar rewards abound, useful designs for artificial flowers that dispense pollen are few. This disparity mirrors a heavy emphasis on nectar collection in the study of pollinator foraging behaviour. In this study we describe a novel, easily constructed and modifiable artificial flower that dispenses flexible amounts of pollen via an ‘anther’ composed of a chenille stem. Using controlled lab assays, we show that more pulverized honeybee pollen is collected by bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) workers at chenille stem feeders than at dish-type feeders. We suggest that the paucity of studies examining pollinator cognition in the context of pollen rewards might be partly remedied if researchers had access to inexpensive and easily adjustable pollen-offering surrogate flowers.
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