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Stigmatic pollen delivery by flies and bees: Methods comparing multiple species within a pollinator community

Howlett, B.G., Evans, L.J., Pattemore, D.E., Nelson, W.R.
Basic and applied ecology 2017 v.19 pp. 19-25
Apoidea, Diptera, agroecosystems, bees, crops, flowers, insect behavior, onions, pollen, pollinating insects, pollination, stigma
A wide variety of insect species provide pollination services in natural and agricultural ecosystems, but in order to quantify their contribution it is necessary to evaluate their effectiveness. An important component of this is to determine their ability to transfer pollen to stigmas which typically requires observers to wait for insects to visit focal flowers (static approach); a time-consuming process not amenable to obtaining measures for pollinating species of low local abundance. An alternative method (active approach) is to detach test flowers and present them to the targeted flower visitor. This offers a number of advantages (e.g. increased speed and flexibility), but may alter insect behaviour. We compared pollen deposition within flowering onion crops using three bee (Apoidea) and three fly (Diptera) species. The two approaches resulted in similar numbers of pollen grains being deposited onto stigmas for each insect species, thereby supporting the validity of the active as an alternative to the static approach in our test crop. The ability to rapidly assess stigmatic pollen deposition of a broad range of insects using the active approach can greatly assist assessments of pollinator contribution within plant pollinator assemblages.