ABSTRACT

The majority of angiosperms require animal pollination for reproduction, and insects are the dominant group of animal pollinators. Bees are considered one of the most important and abundant insect pollinators. Research into bee behaviour and foraging decisions has typically centred on managed eusocial bee species, including Apis mellifera and Bombus terrestris. Non-eusocial bees are understudied with respect to foraging strategies and decision making, such as flower preferences. Understanding whether there are fundamental foraging strategies and preferences that are features of insect groups can provide key insights into the evolution of flower–pollinator co-evolution. In the current study, Lasioglossum (Chilalictus) lanarium and Lasioglossum (Parasphecodes) sp., two native Australian generalist halictid bees, were tested for flower shape preferences between native insect-pollinated and bird-pollinated flowers. Each bee was presented with achromatic images of either insect-pollinated or bird-pollinated flowers in a circular arena. Both native bee species demonstrated a significant preference for images of insect-pollinated flowers. These preferences are similar to those found in A. mellifera, suggesting that flower shape preference may be a deep-rooted evolutionary occurrence within bees. With growing interest in the sensory capabilities of non-eusocial bees as alternative pollinators, the current study also provides a valuable framework for further behavioural testing of such species.

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