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Floral traits mediate pollinator disease transmission

Cite this dataset

Van Wyk, Jennifer; Lynch, Amy-Mei; Adler, Lynn (2022). Floral traits mediate pollinator disease transmission [Dataset]. Dryad.


Plants modulate multitrophic ecological interactions, and variation in plant traits can affect these interactions. Pollinators are exposed to pathogens at flowers and acquire or transmit pathogens at different rates on different plant species, but the traits mediating those interactions are almost entirely unknown. We experimentally manipulated five plant traits that span scales including flower, inflorescence, and plant, to determine their effects on pathogen transmission between foraging bees. Specifically, we manipulated two morphological traits (corolla lip length and flower orientation within an inflorescence) and three resource distribution traits (inflorescence nectar, plant patch nectar and plant aggregation) in tents to test how plant traits affect bee pathogen transmission. We also quantified foraging behavior and fecal deposition patterns as potential mechanisms driving differences in transmission, and assessed trait manipulation consequences for bee reproduction. We found that pathogen transmission was reduced when we trimmed the corolla lip, evenly dispersed nectar distribution within an inflorescence, or aggregated plants in space. Some traits also affected bee reproduction; tents with trimmed corollas had more larval production than control tents, and tents with evenly distributed nectar across plant patches had more larval production than tents with clumped resources. Thus, some trait manipulations both reduced transmission and increased bee microcolony reproduction, although our design does not allow us to discern whether these are related or separate effects. Taken together, our results demonstrate causal effects of several floral traits on pathogen transmission and pollinator reproduction, indicating the importance of intraspecific plant trait variation for pollinator health and population dynamics.


This data was collected in experimental foraging arenas in Massachusetts. Commercially sourced bumble bees were experimentally inoculated with Crithidia bombi, and allowed to coforage with uninfected bees in tents for 10-14 days, at which point bees were assessed for pathogen infection. Data collected were associated wtih this experiment, looking at fogaring behavioral changes, fecal deposition, reproduction, and pathogen transmission. Inside the tents floral traits were experimentally manipulated to ak the question - how do floral traits mediate pathogen transmission in bees, and what are the mechanisms.

Usage notes

Readme files are associated to explain the variables in all data sets. In additon, it is important to note that each set of experiments, for each flower, should be analyzed separately.


National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Award: R01 GM122062-01