A model of resource partitioning between foraging bees based on learning

Thibault Dubois*, Cristian Pasquaretta, Andrew B. Barron, Jacques Gautrais, Mathieu Lihoreau

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Central place foraging pollinators tend to develop multi-destination routes (traplines) to exploit patchily distributed plant resources. While the formation of traplines by individual pollinators has been studied in detail, how populations of foragers use resources in a common area is an open question, difficult to address experimentally. We explored conditions for the emergence of resource partitioning among traplining bees using agent-based models built from experimental data of bumblebees foraging on artificial flowers. In the models, bees learn to develop routes as a consequence of feedback loops that change their probabilities of moving between flowers. While a positive reinforcement of movements leading to rewarding flowers is sufficient for the emergence of resource partitioning when flowers are evenly distributed, the addition of a negative reinforcement of movements leading to unrewarding flowers is necessary when flowers are patchily distributed. In environments with more complex spatial structures, the negative experiences of individual bees on flowers favour spatial segregation and efficient collective foraging. Our study fills a major gap in modelling pollinator behaviour and constitutes a unique tool to guide future experimental programs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1009260
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Volume17
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

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Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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