Ann Bot 2020 03;125(3):509-520
Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad de México, México.
Background: Despite Stebbins' principle of the most efficient pollinator being proposed decades ago, the most important pollinators are still mainly identified using the frequency of visits to flowers. This shortcoming results in a gap between the characterization of the flower visitors of a plant species and a reliable estimation of the plant fitness consequences of the mutualistic interaction. The performance of a mutualistic visitor depends on its abundance, behaviour, effectiveness (pollen removal and deposition per unit time) and efficiency (seed set per unit time) conditioned by the temporal matching between pollinator activity and temporal patterns of maturation of the sexual functions of flowers. Although there have been recent attempts to provide a conceptual and methodological framework to characterize pollinators' performance, few have combined all key elements of visitors and plants to provide an accurate estimation of pollinators' performance under natural conditions.
Methods: We complement information on the flower biology and mating system of the sub-shrub Lepechinia floribunda (Lamiaceae) to provide a daily quantitative estimation of performance (effectiveness and efficiency) of the more abundant pollinators, i.e. native bumble-bees (Bombus spp.) and leafcutter bees (Megachile sp.), and the exotic honey-bee (Apis mellifera).
Key Results: Unlike honey-bees or leafcutter bees, native bumble-bees matched the daily pattern of nectar production and stigma receptivity, and showed higher effectiveness and efficiency. Despite the overabundance of honey-bees, visits occurred mainly when stigmas were not receptive, thus reducing the honey-bees' overall performance.
Conclusions: Bumble-bees appear to be the most important pollinators and potential historical mediators of reproductive trait evolution in L. floribunda. Because the production of seeds by bumble-bees involved fewer pollen grains for plants and less investment in floral display than honey-bees, contemporary and expected changes in pollinator abundance may affect future L. floribunda floral evolution. If bumble-bees were to be further displaced by anthropogenic disturbance or by competition with honey-bees, their lower efficiency will select for a larger floral display increasing reproductive costs. This scenario may also impose selection to reduce dichogamy to match honey-bee foraging activity.