Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Appears in Collections:Biological and Environmental Sciences Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Floral sonication is an innate behaviour in bumblebees that can be fine-tuned with experience in manipulating flowers
Authors: Morgan, Tan
Whitehorn, Penelope R
Lye, Gillian
Vallejo-Marin, Mario
Contact Email:
Keywords: Bombus terrestris
buzz pollination
pollen foraging
Issue Date: Mar-2016
Publisher: Springer
Citation: Morgan T, Whitehorn PR, Lye G & Vallejo-Marin M (2016) Floral sonication is an innate behaviour in bumblebees that can be fine-tuned with experience in manipulating flowers, Journal of Insect Behavior, 29 (2), pp. 233-241.
Abstract: Bumblebees demonstrate an extensive capacity for learning complex motor skills to maximise exploitation of floral rewards. This ability is well studied in nectar collection but its role in pollen foraging is less well understood. Floral sonication is used by bees to extract pollen from some plant species with anthers which must be vibrated (buzzed) to release pollen. Pollen removal is determined by sonication characteristics including frequency and amplitude, and thus the ability to optimise sonication should allow bees to maximise the pollen collection. We investigated the ability of the buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) to modify the frequency and amplitude of their buzzes with increasing experience manipulating flowers of the buzz-pollinated plantSolanum rostratum. We analysed flight and feeding vibrations generated by naïve workers across feeding bouts. Feeding buzzes were of a higher frequency and a lower amplitude than flight buzzes. Both flight and feeding buzzes had reduced amplitudes with increasing number of foraging trips. However, the frequency of their feeding buzzes was reduced significantly more than their flight buzzes as bumblebee workers gained experience manipulating flowers. These results suggest that bumblebees are able to modify the characteristics of their buzzes with experience manipulating buzz-pollinated flowers. We discuss our findings in the context of bumblebee learning, and the current understanding of the optimal sonication characteristics for releasing pollen in buzz-pollinated species. Our results present a tantalising insight into the potential role of learning in floral sonication, paving the way for future research in this area.
Type: Journal Article
DOI Link:
Rights: © The Author(s) 2016 This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Affiliation: University of Stirling
Biological and Environmental Sciences
Biological and Environmental Sciences
Biological and Environmental Sciences

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
Morgan et al_J Insect Behav_2016.pdf668.57 kBAdobe PDFView/Open

This item is protected by original copyright

Items in the Repository are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.

If you believe that any material held in STORRE infringes copyright, please contact providing details and we will remove the Work from public display in STORRE and investigate your claim.