Here, we report on the results of an experimental study that assessed the visitation frequency of wild bees to conspecific flowers with different sized floral guides. UV absorbent floral guides are ubiquitous in Angiosperms, yet surprisingly little is known about conspecific variation in these guides and very few studies have evaluated pollinator response to UV guide manipulation. This is true despite our rich understanding about learning and color preferences in bees. Historical dogma indicates that flower color serves as an important long-range visual signal allowing pollinators to detect the flowers, while floral guides function as close-range signals that direct pollinators to a reward. We initiated the work presented here by first assessing the population level variation in UV absorbent floral guides for conspecific flowers. We assessed two species, Rudbeckia hirta and R. fulgida. We then used several petal cut-and paste experiments to test whether UV floral guides can also function to attract visitors. We manipulated floral guide size and evaluated visitation frequency. In all experiments, pollinator visitation rates were clearly associated with floral guide size. Diminished floral guides recruited relatively few insect visitors. Exaggerated floral guides recruited more visitors than smaller or average sized guides. Thus, UV floral guides play an important role in pollinator recruitment and in determining the relative attractiveness of conspecific flower heads. Consideration of floral guides is therefore important when evaluating the overall conspicuousness of flower heads relative to background coloration. This work raises the issue of whether floral guides serve as honest indicators of reward, since guide size varies in nature for conspecific flowers at the same developmental stage and since preferences for larger guides were found. To our knowledge, these are the first cut-and paste experiments conducted to examine whether UV absorbent floral guides affect visitation rates and pollinator preference.
Original Publication Citation
Horth, L., Campbell, L., & Bray, R. (2014). Wild bees preferentially visit Rudbeckia flower heads with exaggerated ultraviolet absorbing floral guides. Biology Open, 3(3), 221-230. doi: 10.1242/bio.20146445
Horth, Lisa; Campbell, Laura; and Bray, Rebecca, "Wild Bees Preferentially Visit Rudbeckia Flower Heads with Exaggerated Ultraviolet Absorbing Floral Guides" (2014). Biological Sciences Faculty Publications. 40.