Climate warming is likely to change the ways in which plants interact with their insect mutualists, for example through changes in phytochemistry. In particular, this may have implications for the ways in which we manage noxious weeds, which may spread more quickly if they experience stronger mutualistic interactions. We grew the invasive nodding thistle, Carduus nutans
, in two experimental treatments in the field: either passively warmed with open top chambers or at ambient temperatures. We collected pollen from thistles in each treatment and analysed the total protein, lipid, and carbohydrate content. We observed no difference in the pollen protein or carbohydrate content, but the total lipid content of the pollen was significantly higher in warmed plants. We conducted a total of 12.75 h of observations of putatively mutualistic, flower-visiting insects. In addition, we spent 4.17 h collecting bees that visited thistle inflorescences in the treatments, allowing us to identify them to species. We found a significant increase in the abundance of flower-visiting insects in the observations, but not bee abundance in collections. In addition, there was no treatment effect on the number of flower-visiting morphotypes in the observations, or bee species richness in the collections. However, a nonparametric test did identify a significant effect of warming on the composition of flower-visiting morphotypes in observations and bee species in collections. Overall, the warming treatment significantly increased lipid content of the pollen, but had relatively weak effects on insect visitation patterns. However, these effects may be amplified at larger spatial and temporal scales or higher temperatures.
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