University of Sussex
ece3.8068.pdf (684.02 kB)

Novel nectar robbing negatively affects reproduction in Digitalis purpurea

Download (684.02 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-10, 00:50 authored by Christopher Mackin, Dave GoulsonDave Goulson, Maria Clara CastellanosMaria Clara Castellanos
With many plant–pollinator interactions undergoing change as species’ distributions shift, we require a better understanding of how the addition of new interacting partners can affect plant reproduction. One such group of floral visitors, nectar robbers, can deplete plants of nectar rewards without contributing to pollination. The addition of nectar robbing to the floral visitor assemblage could therefore have costs to the plant´s reproductive output. We focus on a recent plant colonist, Digitalis purpurea, a plant that in its native range is rarely robbed, but experiences intense nectar robbing in areas it has been introduced to. Here, we test the costs to reproduction following experimental nectar robbing. To identify any changes in the behavior of the principal pollinators in response to nectar robbing, we measured visitation rates, visit duration, proportion of flowers visited, and rate of rejection of inflorescences. To find the effects of robbing on fitness, we used proxies for female and male components of reproductive output, by measuring the seeds produced per fruit and the pollen export, respectively. Nectar robbing significantly reduced the rate of visitation and lengths of visits by bumblebees. Additionally, bumblebees visited a lower proportion of flowers on an inflorescence that had robbed flowers. We found that flowers in the robbed treatment produced significantly fewer seeds per fruit on average but did not export fewer pollen grains. Our finding that robbing leads to reduced seed production could be due to fewer and shorter visits to flowers leading to less effective pollination. We discuss the potential consequences of new pollinator environments, such as exposure to nectar robbing, for plant reproduction.


Publication status

  • Published

File Version

  • Published version


Ecology and Evolution









Page range


Department affiliated with

  • Evolution, Behaviour and Environment Publications

Full text available

  • Yes

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


First Open Access (FOA) Date


First Compliant Deposit (FCD) Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Publications)


    No categories selected