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Competition for floral resources drives the differentiation of foraging strategy among three dominant bumble bees in an eastern Himalayan meadow
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  • Zhongming YE,
  • David Inouye,
  • Xiao-Fang Jin,
  • Jian Yang,
  • Han-Ning Lun,
  • qingfeng wang,
  • Chun-Feng Yang
Zhongming YE
Wuhan Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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David Inouye
The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory
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Xiao-Fang Jin
Institute of Zoology Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Jian Yang
Wuhan Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Han-Ning Lun
Wuhan Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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qingfeng wang
Wuhan Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Chun-Feng Yang
Wuhan Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Abstract

An understanding of the influence of competition on bumble bees’ foraging strategy is essential to understand the coexistence of multiple bee species in the context of pollinator declines, but remains unclear. We conducted a field survey in an isolated meadow in eastern Himalaya with10 bumble bee species and more than 55 flowering plants they visited. In 2018 and 2019 we measured abundance of the three dominant bumble bees (one mainly foraging for pollen and two for nectar) and recorded the identity and frequency of flowering plants they visited. The intensity of competition of species pairs was evaluated by niche overlap. A composite index of flower depth of plants visited by each bumble bee was calculated on each sampling day. Results indicated that foraging strategies of the three bee species shifted differentially in response to increasing competition; the pollen-seeking bee was forced to forage for more nectar while the nectar-seeking bees were impelled to change target flowers in order to match proboscis length and flower depth. The coexistence of multiple bumble bee species in a community can thus be achieved by adjusting foraging strategy in response to intensity of competition for floral resources.