Honeybees prefer novel insect-pollinated flower shapes over bird-pollinated flower shapes

Scarlett R. Howard, Mani Shrestha, Juergen Schramme, Jair E. Garcia, Aurore Avarguès-Weber, Andrew D. Greentree, Adrian G. Dyer

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25 Citations (Scopus)


Plant-pollinator interactions have a fundamental influence on flower evolution. Flower color signals are frequently tuned to the visual capabilities of important pollinators such as either bees or birds, but far less is known about whether flower shape influences the choices of pollinators. We tested European honeybee Apis mellifera preferences using novel achromatic (gray-scale) images of 12 insect-pollinated and 12 bird-pollinated native Australian flowers in Germany; thus, avoiding influences of color, odor, or prior experience. Independent bees were tested with a number of parameterized images specifically designed to assess preferences for size, shape, brightness, or the number of flower-like shapes present in an image. We show that honeybees have a preference for visiting images of insect-pollinated flowers and such a preference is most-likely mediated by holistic information rather than by individual image parameters. Our results indicate angiosperms have evolved flower shapes which influence the choice behavior of important pollinators, and thus suggest spatial achromatic flower properties are an important part of visual signaling for plant-pollinator interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-465
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Zoology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • angiosperm
  • Apis mellifera (European honeybee)
  • bird-pollinated
  • flower
  • insect-pollinated
  • pollinator

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