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A Temporal Dimension to the Influence of Pollen Rewards on Bee Behaviour and Fecundity in Aloe tenuior
The net effect of pollen production on fecundity in plants can range from negative – when self-pollen interferes with fecundity due to incompatibility mechanisms, to positive – when pollen availability is associated with increased pollinator visitation and fecundity due to its utilization as a reward. We investigated the responses of bees to pollen and nectar rewards, and the effects of these rewards on pollen deposition and fecundity in the hermaphroditic succulent shrub Aloe tenuior. Self-pollinated plants failed to set fruit, but their ovules were regularly penetrated by self-pollen tubes, which uniformly failed to develop into seeds as expected from ovarian self-incompatibility (or strong early inbreeding depression). Bees consistently foraged for pollen during the morning and early afternoon, but switched to nectar in the late afternoon. As a consequence of this differential foraging, we were able to test the relative contribution to fecundity of pollen- versus nectar-collecting flower visitors. We exposed emasculated and intact flowers in either the morning or late afternoon to foraging bees and showed that emasculation reduced pollen deposition by insects in the morning, but had little effect in the afternoon. Despite the potential for self-pollination to result in ovule discounting due to late-acting self-sterility, fecundity was severely reduced in artificially emasculated plants. Although there were temporal fluctuations in reward preference, most bee visits were for pollen rewards. Therefore the benefit of providing pollen that is accessible to bee foragers outweighs any potential costs to fitness in terms of gender interference in this species.
http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0094908
 
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