Floral visitors and ant scent marks: noticed but not used?

Gavin Andrew Ballantyne, Patricia Gillian Willmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


1. Bee behaviour when visiting flowers is mediated by a large variety of chemical cues from both 11 the flower itself and also previous visitors to the flower. Flowers that have been recently visited 12 by bees and hoverflies may be rejected for a period of time by subsequent bee visitors. 13
2. Nectar-thieving ants also commonly visit flowers and could potentially influence the foraging 14 decisions of bees in the same way, through the detection of ant trail pheromones or footprint 15 hydrocarbons. 16
3. Here we demonstrate that, while naïve bumblebees are not inherently repelled by ant scent-17 marks, they can learn to use them as informative signals while foraging. 18
4. To test for similar activity in the wild, visitor behaviour at the flowers of three plant species 19 Digitalis purpurea, Bupleurum fruticosum and Brassica juncea, was compared between 20 flowers that had been in contact with ants and those that had not. No differences were found 21 between the two treatments. 22
5. Perhaps due to the context-dependent usage of chemical foraging cues, bee behaviour under 23 these conditions was not influenced by chemical cues deposited by ants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)402-409
JournalEcological Entomology
Issue number5
Early online date11 Sept 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • associative learning; foraging strategies; scent-marks; ant nectar thieves


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