Pollination, Gathering Nectar, and the Distribution of Flower Species

James W. Friedman & Avi Shmida

We present here a model of pollination having one species of bees and several species of flowers. Each flower species is distinguished by its rate of nectar production and the resources it devotes to display. The flowers and bees are assumed to have identical lifetimes that comprise a number of days within a single year. At the start of the year the bees in their naive phase are attracted to flowers according to the relative sizes of the flowers' displays; however, the bees soon become experienced and continually monitor the amounts of the nectar standing crops of each species, altering their visiting habits over time so that they always tend to visit most frequently the flower species having the largest nectar standing crop. This, in turn, tends equalize the nectar standing crop across species. From one year to the next the relative abundance of the flower species can change in accordance with the reproductive success of each species. This, in turn, depends upon the number of visits by bees to the flowers of each species, the amount of energy devoted to reproduction, and the relative abundance of each species in the preceding year. The model described below has been programmed so that it is possible to run simulations. We make no attempt to model the absolute number of bees or of flowers, but do assume the ratio of bees to flowers is the same from one season to the next. Within this model systematic deviations by the bees from apparently optimal foraging policies can be seen, due to monitoring by the bees, and also the ability to survive of large display flowers that produce no nectar ("cheaters") can be explained.

October, 1992
Published in: 
Journal of Theoretical Biology 175 (1995), 127-138