Article

Patch departure rules in Bumblebees: evidence of a decremental motivational mechanism

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (Impact Factor: 3.05). 08/2007; 61:1707-1715. DOI: 10.1007/s00265-007-0402-6

ABSTRACT The patch living rules of a pollinator, the bumblebee Bombus terrestris L., are studied here in the framework of motivational models widely used for parasitoids: The rewarding events found during the foraging process are supposed to increase or decrease suddenly the tendency of the insect to stay in the current patch and therefore to adjust the patch residence time to the patch profitability. The foraging behaviour of these pollinators was observed in two environment types to determine their patch-leaving decisions. The rich environment was composed of male-fertile flowers, offering pollen and nectar, and the poor one of male-sterile flowers, offering little nectar and no pollen. The experimental design consisted of a patch system in which inflorescences were evenly arranged in two rows (1 m distance). Residence times of foragers inside inflorescences and rows were analysed by a Cox proportional hazards model, taking into account recent and past experience acquired during the foraging bout. Most of the results showed a decremental motivational mechanism, that is, a reduction in the residence time on the inflorescence or in the row related to exploitation of flowers within inflorescences and inflorescences within rows These results indicate that bumblebees tend to leave the patch using departure rules similar to those found in parasitoids. The results also provide information on the memory, learning and evaluating capabilities of bumblebees especially when rich and poor environments were compared. The patch-leaving mechanism suggested by this study is consistent with the central place foraging theory.

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