A study published on June 28, 2023 has uncovered some fascinating findings about the impact of different pollinators on plant fitness.
The researchers, both from the UC San Diego School of Biological Sciences, compared the effects of pollinators using traditional methods, like counting pollen grains and measuring seed production, but they discovered something important was missing...
As it turns out, the number of pollen grains deposited doesn't tell the whole story. They needed to consider the quality of the pollen and the fitness of resulting zygotes.
For three common native self-compatible plants in Southern California, the study found that non-native honeybees, like Apis mellifera, behave differently from native insects.
Honeybees are super-abundant and tend to visit more flowers on a single plant before moving on, which increases the transfer of self-pollen. Native bees, on the other hand, tend to visit flowers of multiple plants, resulting in cross-pollination. Cross-pollination enhances genetic diversity, providing plants with a greater opportunity to thrive in their environment.
This study published by The Royal Society B is the first of its kind to directly compare the fitness of offspring resulting from honeybee pollination to other floral visitors. You can read it in full on royalsocietypublishing.org.