Foraging by Male and Female Solitary Bees with Implications for Pollination

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Abstract

Both male and female solitary bees visit flowers for rewards. Sex related differences in foraging efficiency may also affect their probability to act as pollinators. In some major genera of solitary bees, males can be identified from a distance enabling a comparative foraging-behavior study. We have simultaneously examined nectar foraging of males and females of three bee species on five plant species in northern Israel. Males and females harvested equal nectar amounts but males spent less time in each flower increasing their foraging efficiency at this scale. The overall average visit frequencies of females and males was 27.2 and 21.6 visits per flower per minute respectively. Females flew shorter distances increasing their visit frequency, relative foraging efficiency and their probability to pollinate. The proportion of conspecific pollen was higher on females, indicating higher floral constancy and pollination probability. The longer flights of males increase their probability to cross-pollinate. Our results indicate that female solitary bees are more efficient foragers; females seem also to be more efficient pollinators but males contribute more to long-distance pollen flow.

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