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Appears in Collections:Biological and Environmental Sciences Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Does intraspecific size variation in bumblebees allow colonies to efficiently exploit different flowers?
Authors: Peat, James
Tucker, James
Goulson, Dave
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Keywords: Apidae
corolla depth
flower choice
Issue Date: Apr-2005
Publisher: Wiley
Citation: Peat J, Tucker J & Goulson D (2005) Does intraspecific size variation in bumblebees allow colonies to efficiently exploit different flowers?, Ecological Entomology, 30 (2), pp. 176-181.
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.
Type: Journal Article
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Affiliation: University of Southampton
University of Southampton
Biological and Environmental Sciences

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