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Colour similarity to rewarding model plants affects pollination in a food deceptive orchid, Orchis boryi

Biological journal of the Linnean Society 2001 v.72 no.3 pp. 419-433
Apis mellifera, Bombus, Orchis, color, correlation, flowers, food plants, foods, foraging, fruit set, models, mouth, plant density, pollination, pollinators, probability, vision
We studied the pollination of Orchis boryi at five different locations on the Greek mainland. Orchis boryi is food deceptive and obligatorily insect pollinated. Primary pollinators were Apis mellifera and Bombus spp., which foraged on rewarding plant species nearby and visited O. boryi in between. To analyse floral colour similarity among rewarding plants and O. boryi as perceived by bees, a model of bee colour vision was employed. For each food plant an index was calculated that described the probability of a bee foraging on it to subsequently choose an orchid flower. This choice probability correlated to colour distance according to the model of bee colour vision, indicating that bees chose the deceptive orchid more frequently if they foraged on more similarly coloured species. At different sites different plant species served as models. Bees foraging on food plants from which a high choice rate to the orchid was observed visited the orchid less often after approaching it than other bees, which is likely to reflect avoidance learning. In general, the pollination syndrome appears to be a generalized form of Batesian mimicry, in which similarity to rewarding plants determines reproductive success. As expected by negative density-dependent selection, individual fruit set and pollinia export rate correlated negatively with orchid density, but were unaffected by food plant density, orchid frequency, individual variation of labellum colour, labellum size, or mouth width of the flowers.