Visual cues and foraging choices: bee visits to floral colour phases in Alkanna orientalis (Boraginaceae)

C V Nuttman, F M Semida, S Zalat, P G Willmer

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21 Citations (Scopus)


When a pollination vector is required, any mechanism that contributes to floral visitation will potentially benefit the reproductive fitness of a plant. We studied the effect of floral colour change in the desert perennial Alkanna orientalis on the foraging behaviour of the solitary bee Anthophora pauperata. Flowers changed colour over time from bright yellow (with moderate nectar reward) to pale yellow/white (with significantly lower nectar reward). Bee visitation was non-random with respect to colour phase availability within the flower population and was biased towards the more rewarding flowers. At plants where the availability of colour phases had been manipulated experimentally to produce 'bright' or 'pale' plants, bees visited significantly more flowers (and for longer periods) on the bright plants. The change of flower colour was not simply age-related; we observed variation in the temporal course of colour change and our data suggest that visitation, leading to deposition of cross-pollen, can accelerate the process. In subpopulations with limited pollinators, Alkanna can influence bees by using their colour-related foraging preferences to alter visitation patterns. (c) 2006 The Linnean Society of London.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-435
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006


  • Anthophora pauperata
  • colour change
  • foraging behaviour
  • pollen tube growth
  • pollination


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