Foraging behavior and species interactions

Context-dependent outcomes of pollination mutualisms

Consumers face the constant challenge of balancing resource availability with metabolic demands. In order to maximize foraging efficiency, consumers will use a variety of foraging tactics in response to the resource environment. Bumble bees are flexible in their floral resource foraging tactics, engaging in legitimate foraging and primary and/or secondary nectar robbing. Different ecological contexts, including interspecific competition, provide different relative costs and benefits of each tactic. I examine intraguild interactions within a multispecies plant-pollinator-nectar robber system, asking whether switching between tactics provides a competitive advantage. In flight cage and field experiments at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab, I measure bumble bee foraging efficiency in different competitive scenarios. With this system, I also ask questions about the role of intraguild competition in promoting mutualism persistence. Collaborators in this work are Drs. Judie Bronstein, Becky Irwin, Chris Johnson, and Elinor Lichtenberg

Various photo credits (and photo subjects): Jenna Lea, Trevor Ledbetter, Caity Winterbottom