Colour preferences of Tetragonula carbonaria Sm. stingless bees for colour morphs of the Australian native orchid Caladenia carnea

Adrian G. Dyer, Skye Boyd-Gerny, Mani Shrestha, Jair E. Garcia, Casper J. van der Kooi, Bob B. M. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Innate colour preferences promote the capacity of pollinators to find flowers, although currently there is a paucity of data on how preferences apply to real flowers. The Australian sugarbag bee (Tetragonula carbonaria Sm.) has innate preferences for colours, including UV-absorbing white. Sugarbag bees are pollinators of the terrestrial orchid Caladenia carnea R.Br., which has both white and pink morphs. In laboratory conditions, we tested flower-naïve bees with the white and pink flower morphs revealing a significant preference for the white morph, consistent with experiments using artificial stimuli. In experiments to understand how bees may select food-deceptive orchids following habituation to a particular colour morph, we observed a significant increase in choices towards novel white flowers. We also observed that the presence of a UV-reflecting dorsal sepal signal significantly increased bee choices compared to flowers that had the UV signal blocked. Our findings demonstrate that innate preference testing of insect pollinators with artificial stimuli is replicated in a biologically significant scenario with flowers. The findings also underscore how food-deceptive orchids can receive sufficient pollinator visits to ensure pollination by having different morphs that draw on the innate preferences of bees and their ability to make decisions in a complex ecological setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-361
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Volume205
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

Keywords

  • Flower
  • Innate preferences
  • Orchids
  • Pollination
  • Ultraviolet

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