Biological Invasions

, Volume 13, Issue 12, pp 2901–2909 | Cite as

Comparative nectar-foraging behaviors and efficiencies of an alien and a native bumble bee

  • Marcelo A. Aizen
  • Mariana Lozada
  • Carolina L. Morales
Original Paper


Resource preemption by alien organisms can contribute to their invasion success and the demise of functionally equivalent native species, particularly when opportunistic foraging by aliens results in more efficient exploitation. In forests of NW Patagonia, the only native bumble bee and major pollinator, Bombus dahlbomii, declined almost to extinction as the alien B. ruderatus increased in abundance since its first appearance about 17 years ago. To explore whether resource competition might have driven this displacement we studied the behavior and foraging efficiency of both bumble bees while they harvested nectar from flowers of Alstroemeria aurea, the main summer food resource in the forests of NW Patagonia. We compared the nectar content of flowers that bees selected, recently visited, and rejected with that of randomly-chosen neighboring flowers and assessed differences in visitation rates. The native bumble bee selects flowers with abundant nectar and mostly exploits nectar-rich flower patches by rejecting a higher proportion of flowers with little or no nectar. On the other hand, the alien bumble bee discriminated less with respect to sugar content per visited flower, but visited more flowers per minute. Workers of the native bumble bee harvested ~70% more sugar per unit of time than those of the alien species in absolute terms, and a similar amount when sugar harvested was expressed as a percentage of body mass. In contrast to expectation, the opportunistic foraging of the alien bumblebee was not more efficient and therefore cannot explain the ecological extinction of the native species through exploitative competition. These findings suggest that the displacement of the native species by the alien may be driven by other factors, such as the associated introduction of novel diseases or parasites.


Alstroemeria aurea Bumble-bee invasion Foraging efficiency Native displacement Nectar Resource competition 



The authors thank L.D. Harder, J.R. Obeso, and J.C. Stout for useful comments and suggestions. This research was funded by the Argentina National Research Council for Research (PIP 01623), the National Fund for Research (PICT 01300), the Canon National Parks Science Scholars Program, and the National University of Comahue (B152/04).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcelo A. Aizen
    • 1
  • Mariana Lozada
    • 1
  • Carolina L. Morales
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratorio Ecotono-CRUBUniversidad Nacional del Comahue and INIBIOMASan Carlos de BarilocheArgentina

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