Nectar robbing: Ecological and evolutionary perspectives

Rebecca E. Irwin, Judith L. Bronstein, Jessamyn S. Manson, Leif Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

269 Scopus citations


Not all floral visitors attracted to flowers are pollinators. Instead, some visitors circumvent the floral opening, usually removing nectar without contacting the anthers andor stigma. Here we review the evolutionary ecology of nectar robbing from both the plant and animal perspective. Effects of robbing on female and male components of plant reproduction range from negative to positive. Their underlying mechanisms are diverse, including direct effects and indirect effects mediated through changes in pollination. We detail how plants may be able to deter robbers through morphological and chemical traits. For the evolutionary ecology of robbing to move beyond a phytocentric perspective, studies must also address the causes of robbing and the consequences for both robbers and pollinators. We use an energetics approach to evaluate these causes and consequences. Finally, we highlight unanswered questions in need of further research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-292
Number of pages22
JournalAnnual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010


  • cheating
  • herbivory
  • indirect effects
  • mutualism
  • pollination
  • secondary metabolites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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