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Environ Pollut. 2013 Jun;177:78-81. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2013.02.017. Epub 2013 Mar 6.

The effects of aluminum and nickel in nectar on the foraging behavior of bumblebees.

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University of Pittsburgh, Department of Biological Sciences, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.


Metals in soil are known to negatively affect the health of many groups of organisms, but it is unclear whether they can affect plant-pollinator interactions, and whether pollinators that visit plants growing on contaminated soils are at risk of ingesting potentially toxic resources. We address whether the presence of metals in nectar alters foraging behavior by bumblebees by manipulating nectar with one of two common soil contaminants (Al or Ni) in flowers of Impatiens capensis (Balsaminaceae). While the presence of Al in nectar did not influence foraging patterns by bumblebees, flowers containing Ni nectar solutions were visited for shorter time periods relative to controls, and discouraged bees from visiting nearby Ni-contaminated flowers. However, because bumblebees still visited these flowers, they likely ingested a potentially toxic resource. Our findings suggest that soil metals could cascade to negatively affect pollinators in metal contaminated environments.

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