Flower foraging behavior in the nectar feeding moth Hemaris (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae) a mimic of Bombus (Hymenoptera: Apidae)
From 14-26 August, 2010, I observed a patch of 25 Cirsium discolor flowers. When a pollinator entered the patch, I noted whether the pollinator was Hemaris sp., Bombus sp., or Papilio glaucus. That individual was observed for the duration of its visit to the patch. We counted the number of probes into each C. discolor inflorescence. If the next flower visited was within the patch, the number of probes taken in the inflorescence was recorded. Observations continued until the pollinator exited the patch. This procedure was repeated each time a Hemaris, Bombus, or P. glaucus entered the patch.
Though they mimic Bombus morphologically, Hemaris do not forage in the manner of Bombus or P. glaucus in this system. Hemaris visit significantly fewer flowers per foraging bout than Bombus or P. glaucus, and probe flowers significantly fewer times than either of the other pollinators. Hemaris moths move between flowers quickly, taking few probes in each inflorescence and visiting few inflorescences within the patch.
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