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Proboscis Length and Resource Utilization in Two Uruguayan Bumblebees: Bombus atratus Franklin and Bombus bellicosus Smith (Hymenoptera: Apidae)

Arbulo, N., Santos, E., Salvarrey, S., Invernizzi, C.
Neotropical entomology 2011 v.40 no.1 pp. 72-77
Bombus, Lotus corniculatus, Trifolium pratense, corolla, crops, foraging, insects, legumes, meadows, nectar, proboscis
Bumblebees (Bombus sp.) are eusocial insects with an annual life cycle whose use as pollinator of crops has gained great importance in modern agriculture. Several authors have found that resource use in Bombus species is usually based on the correlation between the proboscis length of the bumblebees and the corolla depth of the flowers. The aim of this study was to determine proboscis length of Bombus atratus and B. bellicosus, two Uruguayan bumblebees, and verify the resource exploitation testing two cultivated species, the red clover and the bird's foot trefoil. Bumblebee foraging activity was recorded in two culture conditions: in a red clover and bird's foot trefoil mixed meadow, and in contiguous plots of these legumes, and the proboscis length of collected foragers was determined. Both species of bumblebees exploited red clover and bird's foot trefoil although they did it in different proportions in all instances tested. The results indicated that the choice of the resources in B. atratus and B. bellicosus was influenced by their proboscis length. Bombus atratus has a longer proboscis and preferably visited red clover, possibly obtaining nectar easier and faster than B. bellicosus, which has a shorter proboscis. Bombus bellicosus used both resources without any clear preference.