How do floral display size and the density of surrounding flowers influence the likelihood of bumble bee revisitation to a plant?

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1. Most pollination biologists have used the collective pollinator visits to a plant as the measure of its pollinator attraction. However, we know very little about how many returns by the same individuals compose these visits, and how far each visitor travels after leaving the plant. Such behavioural aspects of individual pollinators are essential to understand the patterns of pollen flow among plants. 2. We observed plant visits by tagged bumble bees Bombus diversus in a field population of Cirsium purpuratum. By dissecting the collective visitation data into visits made by individual foragers, we addressed how 'visitor density' (number of individuals that visited a plant per 2 h) and 'individual visitation rate' (number of visits made by each individual per 2 h) are related to floral display size (number of flowering heads on a plant) and local flower density (number of flowering heads on neighbouring plants). We also tracked individual bees to determine how display size and local flower density of a plant influences its relative position in a bee's foraging area. 3. Plants attracted both regular visitors (bees that visited a plant more than three times per 2 h) and occasional visitors (bees that visited a plant fewer than four times per 2 h). Densities of both types of visitors increased with floral display size, whereas only occasional visitor's density increased with local flower density. 4. Individual bees preferred to visit central plants within their own foraging areas, plants with larger displays, and plants with lower local flower density. However, these preferences were independent from one another. Plants with large displays were not necessarily chosen by a bee as the centre of its own foraging area. On the other hand, plants with high local flower density were often located near the centre of a bee's foraging area. 5. The observed pollinator movements have implications for pollen flow in the plant population. Plants with larger displays probably experience greater mate diversity by attracting more occasional visitors, but they also assure matings with particular plants by increasing returns from regular visitors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-95
Number of pages9
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Feb


  • Bombus diversus
  • Cirsium purpuratum
  • Floral display size
  • Individual visitation rate
  • Local flower density
  • Plant-pollinator interaction
  • Visitor density


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