Generalist social bees maximize diversity intake in plant species-rich and resource-abundant environments

Benjamin F. Kaluza, Helen Wallace, Alexander Keller, Tim A. Heard, Bradley Jeffers, Nora Drescher, Nico Blüthgen, Sara D. Leonhardt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Numerous studies revealed a positive relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, suggesting that biodiverse environments may not only enhance ecosystem processes, but also benefit individual ecosystem members by, for example, providing a higher diversity of resources. Whether and how the number of available resources affects resource collection and subsequently consumers (e.g., through impacting functions associated with resources) have, however, been little investigated, although a better understanding of this relationship may help explain why the abundance and richness of many animal species typically decline with decreasing plant (resource) diversity. Using a social bee species as model (Tetragonula carbonaria), we investigated how plant species richness-recorded for study sites located in different habitats-and associated resource abundance affected the diversity and functionality (here defined as nutritional content and antimicrobial activity) of resources (i.e., pollen, nectar, and resin) collected by a generalist herbivorous consumer. The diversity of both pollen and resin collected strongly increased with increasing plant/tree species richness, while resource abundance was only positively correlated with resin diversity. These findings suggest that bees maximize resource diversity intake in (resource) diverse habitats. Collecting more diverse resources did, however, not increase their functionality, which appeared to be primarily driven by the surrounding (plant) source community in our study. In generalist herbivores, maximizing resource diversity intake may therefore primarily secure collection of sufficient amounts of resources across the entire foraging season, but it also ensures that the allocated resources meet all functional needs. Decreasing available resource diversity may thus impact consumers primarily by reduced resource abundance, but also by reduced resource functionality, particularly when resources of high functionality (e.g., from specific plant species) become scarce.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01758
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Functional complementarity
  • Functional redundancy
  • Meliponini
  • Nutritional ecology
  • Plant-insect interactions
  • Pollinator decline


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