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Pollinator Preferences
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Visual and Olfactory Preferences of distinct pollinators

I coedited A special issue for the International Journal of Plant Sciences (IJPS) on Floral Evolution, Breeding systems, Pollinators and Beyond (Sapir et al. 2019, IJPS).

In Medicago sativa, alfalfa, we contrasted the visual floral traits that are most attractive to three distinct bee species, honeybees, leaf cutting bees and bumble bees (Bauer et al. 2017). We examined how preference by bee species influenced frequency of visits and subsequent female reproductive success and yield. We also contrasted the volatile organic compound (VOC) profile of different alfalfa cultivars and wild populations of alfalfa subspecies and examined the impact of such olfactory differences on pollinator preferences.

We compared the foraging patterns of bumble bees and honey bees over time and space in a common landscape, using Radio frequency identification devices (RFID) (Minahan and Brunet, 2018, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution). We contrasted the richness and diversity of pollen brought back to the hives between these two bee species and their preferences for plant species (Minahan and Brunet, in prep.). We are determining variation on pollen nutritional value on the foraging behavior of these two bee species.

We examined the impact of the surrounding landscape and spatial arrangement of honey bee hives on pollen foraging and yield in cranberry (Guzman et al. 2019, Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment).

We reviewed factors that influence bee decline and its implications for food security (Brunet, 2019, Scientia Global) www.scientia.global/pollinator-decline-implications-for-food-security-environment.

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Earlier on, using the Rocky Mountain columbine, we examined how bumble bees and hawkmoths affected the maintenance of the flower color polymorphism commonly found in populations of the Rocky Mountain columbine (Brunet 2009). Hawkmoths preferred blue flowers under both day and dust light conditions and bumble bees quickly learn to associate flower color with pollen reward such that the pollinators did not help explain the maintenance of the flower color polymorphism in the Rocky Mountain columbine populations (Thairu and Brunet 2015, Annals of Botany). Using the Rocky Mountain columbine as a model system, we also examined the role of floral display size, flower size, and reward sizes on bumble bee choices in a dichogamous species where both male- and female-phase flowers are opened simultaneously on inflorescences (Brunet et al. 2015, IJPS). Bees could quantify the number of pollen-producing flowers on an inflorescence and preferred inflorescences with more pollen-producing flowers rather than inflorescences with more open flowers. Bee preference for floral traits was strongly associated with pollen reward and correlations between floral traits and pollen reward are likely to have a major impact on selection on floral traits by pollinators.