As well as nutritional rewards, some plants also reward ectothermic pollinators with warmth. Bumble bees have some control over their temperature, but have been shown to forage at warmer flowers when given a choice, suggesting that there is some advantage to them of foraging at warm flowers (such as reducing the energy required to raise their body to flight temperature before leaving the flower). We describe a model that considers how a heat reward affects the foraging behaviour in a thermogenic central-place forager (such as a bumble bee). We show that although the pollinator should spend a longer time on individual flowers if they are warm, the increase in total visit time is likely to be small. The pollinator's net rate of energy gain will be increased by landing on warmer flowers. Therefore, if a plant provides a heat reward, it could reduce the amount of nectar it produces, whilst still providing its pollinator with the same net rate of gain. We suggest how heat rewards may link with plant life history strategies.
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Rose publication type: Journal article