Nectar robbing | Department of Biological Sciences

Nectar robbing

Carpenter bee robbing nectar from sage flowerWhile we often see insects visiting the front of flowers where they can act as pollinators ("legitimate visitation"), many flower visitors can also "rob" nectar from the base of tubular flowers by biting or using existing holes. Theoretically, nectar robbing should harm the pollination mutualism. However, both pollination and robbing are common. To understand this apparent conundrum, we are applying concepts and techniques from foraging behavioral research to study nectar robbing from the bees' perspective. We have been investigating the ecological conditions (e.g., competition for nectar, bee-flower morphological mis-match) that alter (1) the relative benefits of robbing versus visiting legitimately and (2) whether individual bees should remain constant to one foraging strategy or the other.

Collaborators: Jessie Barker, Judie Bronstein, Becky Irwin, Jorge Peña, Sarah Richman

Watch nectar robbing in action!

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