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Ecology. 2013 Feb;94(2):273-9.

Yeasts in nectar of an early-blooming herb: sought by bumble bees, detrimental to plant fecundity.

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Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas), Américo Vespucio s/n, E-41092 Sevilla, Spain.


Through their effects on physicochemical features of floral nectar, nectar-dwelling yeasts can alter pollinator behavior, but the effect of such changes on pollination success and plant reproduction is unknown. We present results of experiments testing the effects of nectar yeasts on foraging patterns of captive and free-ranging bumble bees, and also on pollination success and fecundity of the early-blooming, bumble bee-pollinated Helleborus foetidus (Ranunculaceae). Under controlled experimental conditions, inexperienced Bombus terrestris workers responded positively to the presence of yeasts in artificial sugar solutions mimicking floral nectar by visiting proportionally more yeast-containing artificial flowers. Free-ranging bumble bees also preferred yeast-containing nectar in the field. Experiments conducted in two different years consistently showed that natural and artificial nectars containing yeasts were more thoroughly removed than nectars without yeasts. Experimental yeast inoculation of the nectar of H. foetidus flowers was significantly associated with reductions in number of pollen tubes in the style, fruit set, seed set, and mass of individual seeds produced. These results provide the first direct evidence to date that nectar yeasts can modify pollinator foraging patterns, pollination success, and the quantity and quality of seeds produced by insect-pollinated plants.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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