Bee and floral traits affect the characteristics of the vibrations experienced by flowers during buzz pollination


Arroyo-Correa B, Beattie C & Vallejo-Marin M (2019) Bee and floral traits affect the characteristics of the vibrations experienced by flowers during buzz pollination. Journal of Experimental Biology, 222 (4), Art. No.: jeb198176.

During buzz pollination, bees use their indirect flight muscles to produce vibrations that are transmitted to the flowers and result in pollen release. Although buzz pollination has been known for >100 years, we are still in the early stages of understanding how bee and floral characteristics affect the production and transmission of floral vibrations. Here, we analysed floral vibrations produced by four closely related bumblebee taxa (Bombus spp.) on two buzz-pollinated plants species (Solanum spp.). We measured floral vibrations transmitted to the flower to establish the extent to which the mechanical properties of floral vibrations depend on bee and plant characteristics. By comparing four bee taxa visiting the same plant species, we found that peak acceleration, root mean-squared acceleration (RMS) and frequency vary between bee taxa, but that neither bee size (intertegular distance) nor flower biomass (dry mass) affects peak acceleration, RMS or frequency. A comparison of floral vibrations of two bee taxa visiting flowers of two plant species showed that, while bee species affects peak acceleration, RMS and frequency, plant species only affects acceleration (peak acceleration and RMS), not frequency. When accounting for differences in the transmission of vibrations across the two types of flower, using a species-specific ‘coupling factor’, we found that RMS acceleration and peak displacement do not differ between plant species. This suggests that bees produce the same initial acceleration in different plants but that transmission of these vibrations through the flower is affected by floral characteristics.

Buzz pollination; Bombus; substrate-borne vibrations; Solanum; sonication;

Journal of Experimental Biology: Volume 222, Issue 4

Publication date28/02/2019
Publication date online13/02/2019
Date accepted by journal17/01/2019