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Flower specific foraging

I understand that foragers for pollen and nectar will restrict their foraging trip to one type or flower - my question is how specific are they? Mass plantings are attractive to bees because they increase foraging efficiency but if there are variations in color, subspecies or variety of flower in the same family, will the bees treat them as all the same?

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I have seen honey bees on my garden flowers and sunflowers which are all different species/varieties and not abundant in the area.

Bees are incredibly smart creatures. Why do they categorise different floral sources in their hive? Perhaps to streamline the distribution of roles for efficiency.

The scale of forage variety would obviously vary greatly across different locations and due to their smarts, I can imagine foragers would adapt to this, bending the rules slightly to include more subtle varieties across subspecies etc. to support their intention of efficiency.

Yes but the individual bees do not go from one type to the other.

Short answer :slight_smile: : mass planting must have the same smell, colour, shape, and size of flowers. And at the same time to be rewarding enough to compete with other forage sources.

Longer version.
Bees don’t care about family or species. Actually, they don’t care about flowers at all. You can show them the best bouquet ever, and if they work on something else they will ignore it. What they care about is production. The quantity of nectar and sugar content is the priority. A bucket of thick sugar syrup with some aroma beats many flowers any day.

We know that when a scout recruiting foragers, they give information about quantity and quality of “stuff” they found as well as direction and distance. When foragers get to the spot and find a reward, the first thing they memorise is a location and then its general layout. The next level of details are colour, aroma, shape and the size of the flower they collect from. When bees arrive on the spot and don’t find nectar anymore, the first thing they stop reacting to is colour (takes 3-4 hours to “forget”). On the second day, they forget both colour and smell. After 4-5 days - the layout, and on day 6 they stop to fly to the location at all. On another hand, bees can switch for a better source of forage very quickly. If it is not too far, it takes 30-40 minutes for the majority of the recruited group to switch to forage with higher sugar content.


I have a variety of flowers and they enjoy, keeping flowering into the late summer

I planted a Leptospermum garden earlier this year. I’m looking forward to sharing a photo of one particular plant, which is heavily in bud, in the “Bee Photos” topic once all the flowers open. The only thing I fear is that no bees will be on them, on account that they’ll be foraging on the gum trees that will also be heavily in flower. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for at least one bee.


I bet you’ll get 2 if you cross your toes.

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