Pollination biologists ought to consider the ways in which pollinator individuality may affect their interpretations of both pollinator behavior and pollinator-driven selection on plants. In addition to documenting variation among pollinators in characteristics such as constancy and the mode and tempo of working flowers, future studies should concentrate first on how these traits covary across individuals, and second on how the variation and covariation change as individuals gain experience.
For any interpretation of how pollinators respond to variation among plants, and thereby exert selection pressure, it is important to know whether individual pollinators show site fidelity or traplining behavior. This is particularly important with respect to scent-marking behavior. In particular, we need to go beyond existing studies, which show only that some individuals trapline in some situations. We need to know whether this behavior is typical, and we need to know what circumstances promote it.
In our opinion, an interesting unanswered question in pollinator foraging ecology is, "How do individual animals choose foraging areas.?" For example, do they preferentially forage in areas with rich spatial detail, so as to facilitate memorization of particularly rewarding patches (Cohen & Keasar 2000)? Does spatial memory develop "passively" as animals move between flowers based on simple foraging rules, or do animals first establish a "cognitive map" of their home range within which they then place the coordinates of profitable foraging sites (Menzel, this volume).? Heinrich (1979, p. 114) states that "Young bees wander about a great deal before settling down," but we know little about how their experiences while wandering affect their ultimate decisions to settle. We also do not know if the wandering phase simply serves searching for the most rewarding flowers, or whether pollinators "deliberately" visit many different flower types to extract more complex foraging rules, including, for example, categorization of food types, or optimal decision rules for when to leave floral patches. Perhaps bees whose early experiences have favored flower-constant behavior will preferentially choose foraging areas with monospecific stands of flowers that make it easy to be constant. Relationships of this sort would necessarily color our mechanistic interpretations of behavioral patterns, yet we tend to ignore them. Focusing on flower visitors as individuals - with individual histories of learning about the world - can be a useful corrective.
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