Mutualisms may cause coupled population expansion or decline if both partners respond to variation in the other's abundance. Many studies have shown how the abundance of animal mutualists affects plant reproduction, but less is known about how the abundance of plant mutualists affects animal reproduction. Over 2 yr, I compared reproduction of the bumble bee, Bombus appositus, across meadows that varied naturally in flower density, and I compared reproduction between fed colonies and unfed control colonies. Colony reproduction (gyne, worker, and male production) was constant across meadows that varied naturally in flower density. Forager densities per flower did not vary among meadows, and daily nectar depletion was consistently low across meadows, suggesting that bees had ample nectar in all meadows. However, colonies directly fed with supplemental nectar and pollen generally produced over twice as many gynes as control colonies. Feeding did not affect male or worker production. Although colonies may benefit from food supplementation at the nest, it is possible that they may not benefit from additional flowers because they have too few workers to collect extra resources.
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