Rowe, L., D. Gibson, C. A. Bahlai, J. Gibbs, D. A. Landis, and R. Isaacs. 2020. Flower traits associated with the visitation patterns of bees. Oecologia doi: 10.1007/s00442-020-04674-0
Plant-pollinator interactions are partially driven by the expression of plant traits that signal and attract bees to the nutritional resources within flowers. Although multiple physical and chemical floral traits are known to influence the visitation patterns of bees, how distinct bee groups vary in their responses to floral traits has yet to be elucidated. In this study, we used a common garden experiment to test for morphological floral traits associated with pollen quantity at the plant species level, and examined how the visitation patterns of taxonomically and functionally distinct bee groups are related to flower trait characteristics of 39 wildflower species. We also determined how floral traits influence the structure of wild bee communities visiting plants and whether this varies among geographic localities. Our results suggest that floral area is the primary morphological floral trait related to bee visitation of several distinct bee groups, but that wild bee families and functionally distinct bee groups have unique responses to floral trait expression. The composition of the wild bee communities visiting different plants was most strongly associated with variability in floral area, flower height, and the quantity of pollen retained in flowers. Our results inform wildflower habitat management for bees by demonstrating that the visitation patterns of distinct bee taxa can be predicted by floral traits, and highlight that variability in these traits should be considered when selecting plants to support pollinators.
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