Comparison of pollination and defensive buzzes in bumblebees indicates species-specific and context-dependent vibrations


De Luca PA, Cox DA & Vallejo-Marin M (2014) Comparison of pollination and defensive buzzes in bumblebees indicates species-specific and context-dependent vibrations. Naturwissenschaften, 101 (4), pp. 331-338.

Bees produce vibrations in many contexts, including for defense and while foraging. Buzz pollination is a unique foraging behavior in which bees vibrate the anthers of flowers to eject pollen which is then collected and used as food. The relationships between buzzing properties and pollen release are well understood, but it is less clear to what extent buzzing vibrations vary among species, even though such information is crucial to understanding the functional relationships between bees and buzz-pollinated plants. Our goals in this study were (1) to examine whether pollination buzzes differ from those produced during defense, (2) to evaluate the similarity of buzzes between different species of bumblebees (Bombus spp.), and (3) to determine if body size affects the expression of buzzing properties. We found that relative peak amplitude, peak frequency, and duration were significantly different between species, but only relative peak amplitude differed between pollination and defensive buzzes. There were significant interactions between species and buzz type for peak frequency and duration, revealing that species differed in their patterns of expression in these buzz properties depending on the context. The only parameter affected by body size was duration, with larger bees producing shorter buzzes. Our findings suggest that although pollination and defensive buzzes differ in some properties, variability in buzz structure also exhibits a marked species-specific component. Species differences in pollination buzzes may have important implications for foraging preferences in bumblebees, especially if bees select flowers best matched to release pollen for their specific buzzing characteristics.

Body size; Bombus; Buzz pollination; Defensive buzzes; Pollen foraging; Sonication

Naturwissenschaften: Volume 101, Issue 4

Publication date30/04/2014
Date accepted by journal06/02/2014