This project seeks to assess the ways in which invasive ant competition for floral resources affects the foraging behavior of both native and non-native bees present in Hawaiian coastal strand habitats. Over the past century, endemic Hawaiian bee populations have undergone a steep decline resulting in seven species being declared federally endangered in 2016. These bees are unusual in that they almost exclusively visit native plants, and they are the sole insect pollinators of several species of critically endangered plants, making them extremely important for the overall persistence of native plant communities. While Hawai'i has no native ants, coastal strand habitats are heavily invaded by a variety of invasive ant species. Ants are commonly found in flowers, limiting bees' ability to pollinate/access floral resources. Despite ant invasion, non-native bee populations appear to be present and thriving in coastal areas where native bees are in decline. The overall aim of this project is to determine whether differences in foraging behavior, particularly in response to ant presence in flowers, may underlie this disparity.
The undergraduate's role will be to assist in identifying field-collected specimens, processing video data, and DNA barcoding of mixed pollen loads collected from bees.
An interest in insect behavior!