Foraging strategies in the small skipper butterfly, Thymelicus flavus: When to switch?

Dave Goulson, Jeff Ollerton, Chris Sluman

    Research output: Contribution to Book/Report typesChapter

    Abstract

    Many insects foraging for nectar or pollen exhibit flower constancy, a learned fidelity to a particular species of plant that previously provided a reward. Constancy may persist even when alternative flowers are available that provide a greater or less variable reward. This strategy entails more travelling time than one of generalization (visiting all suitable flowers as they are encountered). The consensus at present is that this increase in travelling time is offset by decreases in handling time; switching between flower species incurs a cost in time spent learning to 'handle' the new flower species that is avoided by remaining constant. If this is so, then the optimal strategy should depend upon the density of flower species (and thus the travelling time), with switching occurring below a threshold density of the target flower species. This prediction is tested using the butterfly, Thymelicusfiavus, by analysing foraging patterns under natural conditions. This species exhibited constancy: of 465 visits to flowers 85% were to the same species as last visited. As predicted switches between flower species occurred in response to low encounter rates of the flower species on which the individual had previously fed. However, butterflies ignored the vast majority of suitable flowers that they encountered, even when they were of the species to which they were constant. This casts doubt on explanations for flower constancy as an adaptive strategy that minimizes handling time and maximizes resource acquisition per unit time within learning constraints.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationAnimal Behaviour
    PublisherAcademic Rights Press
    Pages1009-1016
    Number of pages8
    ISBN (Print)0003-3472
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1997

    Publication series

    NameAnimal Behaviour
    Volume53

    Fingerprint

    Thymelicus
    Hesperiidae
    foraging
    flowers
    butterflies
    learning

    Cite this

    Goulson, D., Ollerton, J., & Sluman, C. (1997). Foraging strategies in the small skipper butterfly, Thymelicus flavus: When to switch? In Animal Behaviour (pp. 1009-1016). (Animal Behaviour; Vol. 53). Academic Rights Press. https://doi.org/10.1006/anbe.1996.0390
    Goulson, Dave ; Ollerton, Jeff ; Sluman, Chris. / Foraging strategies in the small skipper butterfly, Thymelicus flavus: When to switch?. Animal Behaviour. Academic Rights Press, 1997. pp. 1009-1016 (Animal Behaviour).
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    Goulson, D, Ollerton, J & Sluman, C 1997, Foraging strategies in the small skipper butterfly, Thymelicus flavus: When to switch? in Animal Behaviour. Animal Behaviour, vol. 53, Academic Rights Press, pp. 1009-1016. https://doi.org/10.1006/anbe.1996.0390

    Foraging strategies in the small skipper butterfly, Thymelicus flavus: When to switch? / Goulson, Dave; Ollerton, Jeff; Sluman, Chris.

    Animal Behaviour. Academic Rights Press, 1997. p. 1009-1016 (Animal Behaviour; Vol. 53).

    Research output: Contribution to Book/Report typesChapter

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    Goulson D, Ollerton J, Sluman C. Foraging strategies in the small skipper butterfly, Thymelicus flavus: When to switch? In Animal Behaviour. Academic Rights Press. 1997. p. 1009-1016. (Animal Behaviour). https://doi.org/10.1006/anbe.1996.0390