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Environ Entomol. 2009 Jun;38(3):748-56.

Subalpine bumble bee foraging distances and densities in relation to flower availability.

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  • 1Pinyon Publishing, Montrose, CO 81403, USA.


Bees feed almost exclusively on nectar and pollen from flowers. However, little is known about how food availability limits bee populations, especially in high elevation areas. Foraging distances and relationships between forager densities and resource availability can provide insights into the potential for food limitation in mobile consumer populations. For example, if floral resources are limited, bee consumers should fly farther to forage, and they should be more abundant in areas with more flowers. I estimated subalpine bumble bee foraging distances by calculating forager recapture probabilities at increasing distances from eight marking locations. I measured forager and flower densities over the flowering season in six half-hectare plots. Because subalpine bumble bees have little time to build their colonies, they may forage over short distances and forager density may not be constrained by flower density. However, late in the season, when floral resources dwindle, foraging distances may increase, and there may be stronger relationships between forager and flower densities. Throughout the flowering season, marked bees were primarily found within 100 m (and never >1,000 m) from their original marking location, suggesting that they typically did not fly far to forage. Although the density of early season foraging queens increased with early-season flower density, the density of mid- and late-season workers and males did not vary with flower density. Short foraging distances and no relationships between mid- and late-season forager and flower densities suggest that high elevation bumble bees may have ample floral resources for colony growth reproduction.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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