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Volume 2015, Article ID 134630, 7 pages
Research Article

Busy Bees: Variation in Insect Flower-Visiting Rates across Multiple Plant Species

1Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI), School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QG, UK
2Biologie I, Universität Regensburg, 93053 Regensburg, Germany

Received 12 December 2014; Revised 18 May 2015; Accepted 26 May 2015

Academic Editor: Bertrand Schatz

Copyright © 2015 Margaret J. Couvillon et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We quantified insect visitation rates by counting how many flowers/inflorescences were probed per unit time for five plant species (four native and one garden: California lilac, bramble, ragwort, wild marjoram, and ivy) growing in Sussex, United Kingdom, by following individual insects () from nine functional groups (honey bees (Apis mellifera), bumble bees (Bombus spp.), hoverflies, flies, butterflies, beetles, wasps, non-Apidae bees, and moths). Additionally, we made a census of the insect diversity on the studied plant species. Overall we found that insect groups differed greatly in their rate of flower visits (), with bumble bees and honey bees visiting significantly more flowers per time (11.5 and 9.2 flowers/minute, resp.) than the other insect groups. Additionally, we report on a within-group difference in the non-Apidae bees, where the genus Osmia, which is often suggested as an alternative to honey bees as a managed pollinator, was very speedy (13.4 flowers/minute) compared to the other non-Apidae bees (4.3 flowers/minute). Our census showed that the plants attracted a range of insects, with the honey bee as the most abundant visitor (34%). Therefore, rate differences cannot be explained by particular specializations. Lastly, we discuss potential implications of our conclusions for pollination.