Comparing levels of geitonogamous visitation by honey bees and other pollinators


  • Dillon Travis University of California San Diego
  • Joshua Kohn University of California, San Diego



Honey bees, Apis mellifera, native bees, geitonogamy, self-fertilization, self-pollination


Geitonogamy, the transfer of pollen from one flower to another on the same plant, is often the primary means of self-pollination in flowering plants. For self-compatible plants, self-fertilization may lead to greatly reduced offspring fitness via inbreeding depression. For self-incompatible plants, geitonogamous pollen transfer can result in low seed set, even when stigmatic pollen loads are substantial. For multiple self-compatible, native California plants, we found that honey bees visited more flowers per plant than native insects, and that offspring resulting from pollination by honey bees had reduced fitness relative to those resulting from native insect pollination. Here we investigate whether honey bees generally make more geitonogamous visits than other pollinators using data from a global survey of 41 manuscripts that reported floral visitation data. Compared to the average of all non-honey bee visitors in a plants pollinator assemblage, honey bees visit significantly more flowers per plant, though they do not differ from the non-honey bee visitor with the highest rate of geitonogamous visitation. However, the disparity between rates of geitonogamous visitation by honey bees and non-honey bee visitors is a function of the frequency of honey bees relative to non-honey bee visitors. As honey bees become increasingly numerically dominant, there is a trend for their rates of geitonogamous visitation to increase, accompanied by a significant decline in flowers visited per plant by non-honey bee visitors. While we found that honey bees visited more flowers per plant compared to the average of other visitors, large or eusocial pollinators were as likely as honey bees to be the most geitonogamous visitor.

Author Biography

Joshua Kohn, University of California, San Diego

Professor, Department of Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution


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How to Cite

Travis, D., & Kohn, J. (2023). Comparing levels of geitonogamous visitation by honey bees and other pollinators. Journal of Pollination Ecology, 33, 170–179.



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