Does intraspecific size variation in bumblebees allow colonies to efficiently exploit different flowers?

Peat, J, Tucker, J and Goulson, D (2005) Does intraspecific size variation in bumblebees allow colonies to efficiently exploit different flowers? Ecological Entomology, 30 (2). pp. 176-181. ISSN 0307-6946

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Abstract

1. It has long been known that foraging bumblebee workers vary greatly in size, within species, and within single nests. This phenomenon has not been adequately explained. Workers of their relatives within the Apidae exhibit much less size variation. 2. For the bumblebee Bombus terrestris size, as measured by thorax width, was found to correspond closely with tongue length, so that larger bees are equipped to feed from deeper flowers. 3. The mean size of worker bees attracted to flowers was found to differ between plant species, and larger bees with longer tongues tended to visit deeper flowers. 4. Finally, handling time depended on the match between corolla depth and tongue length: large bees were slower than small bees when handling shallow flowers, but quicker than small bees when handling deep flowers. 5. Size variation within bumblebees may be adaptive, since it enables the colony as a whole to efficiently exploit a range of different flowers. Possible explanations for the marked differences in size variation exhibited by bumblebees compared with Apis species and stingless bees (Meliponinae) are discussed. © 2005 The Royal Entomological Society.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Depositing User: Catrina Hey
Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2014 15:43
Last Modified: 25 Nov 2014 15:43
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/51234
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