Catching the thief: Nectar robbing behaviour by bumblebees on naturalised Fuchsia magellanica in Ireland
Keywords:Bumblebee behaviour, nectar robbing, competition, pollination, floral larceny
Fuchsia magellanica (Ongaraceae) is a plant with a traditionally ornithopholous pollination system, pollinated primarily by hummingbirds in its native range. As a naturalised alien plant in Ireland, F. magellanica is visited largely by bumblebees, with evidence for nectar robbing behaviour of the long-tubed flowers. We aimed to investigate nectar robbing behaviour of bumblebees on F. magellanica, and in particular whether floral and pollinator traits (size) determined likelihood of nectar robbing. While F. magellanica was visited by a number of bumblebee species, only two with shorter tongue lengths were observed to rob nectar from flowers. Although there was no observed relationship between intra-specific bee body size and nectar robbing behaviour, nectar robbing was observed most frequently in the site with the highest number of bees. Proportions of robbed flowers were low overall and varied between populations, but there was a significant relationship between flower size and whether it was nectar robbed with larger flowers robbed more often. Our work suggests that floral size determines whether a flower-visitor will choose to nectar rob or not in this system. Nectar robbing may also be related to bee density which could suggest this behaviour is driven by competition for resources, or that it is learnt by observing other bees.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Dara Anne Stanley, Emmeline Cosnett
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