Insect visitation rate is unaffected by patch size in garden-scale patches.
This applies to both the rate per unit area and per flower.
Plant varieties grown in unstandardized patches can be compared without bias.
Previous studies investigating the effect of flower patch size on insect flower visitation rate have compared relatively large patches (10–1000s m2) and have generally found a negative relationship per unit area or per flower. Here, we investigate the effects of patch size on insect visitation in patches of smaller area (range c. 0.1–3.1 m2), which are of particular relevance to ornamental flower beds in parks and gardens. We studied two common garden plant species in full bloom with 6 patch sizes each: borage (Borago officinalis) and lavender (Lavandula × intermedia‘Grosso’). We quantified flower visitation by insects by making repeated counts of the insects foraging at each patch. On borage, all insects were honey bees (Apis mellifera,n = 5506 counts). On lavender, insects (n = 737 counts) were bumble bees (Bombusspp., 76.9%), flies (Diptera, 22.4%), and butterflies (Lepidoptera, 0.7%). On both plant species we found positive linear effects of patch size on insect numbers. However, there was no effect of patch size on the number of insects per unit area or per flower and, on lavender, for all insects combined or only bumble bees. The results show that it is possible to make unbiased comparisons of the attractiveness of plant species or varieties to flower-visiting insects using patches of different size within the small scale range studied and make possible projects aimed at comparing ornamental plant varieties using existing garden flower patches of variable area.