With bee populations in decline, a new study offers hope for a relatively simple mechanism to promote bee health and well-being: providing bees access to sunflowers.
The study, conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, showed that two different species of bees fed a diet of sunflower pollen had dramatically lower rates of infection by specific pathogens. Bumble bees on the sunflower diet also had generally better colony health than bees fed on diets of other flower pollens.
The study showed that sunflower pollen reduced infection by a particular pathogen (Crithidia bombi) in bumble bees (Bombus impatiens). Sunflower pollen also protected European honey bees (Apis mellifera) from a different pathogen (Nosema ceranae). These pathogens have been implicated in slowing bee colony growth rates and increasing bee death.
The study also showed a deleterious effect, however, as honey bees on the sunflower diet had mortality rates roughly equivalent to honey bees not fed a pollen diet and four times higher than honey bees fed buckwheat pollen. This mortality effect was not observed in bumble bees.
Jonathan Giacomini, a Ph.D. student in applied ecology at NC State and corresponding author of a paper describing the research, said that bees already seem adept at collecting sunflower pollen. Annually, some two million acres in the United States and 10 million acres in Europe are devoted to sunflowers, he said, making sunflower pollen a ready and relevant bee food.
“We’ve tried other monofloral pollens, or pollens coming from one flower, but we seem to have hit the jackpot with sunflower pollen,” said co-senior author Rebecca Irwin, a professor of applied ecology at NC State. “None of the others we’ve studied have had this consistent positive effect on bumble bee health.”
Sunflower pollen is low in protein and some amino acids, so it should not be considered as a standalone meal for bee populations, Irwin said. “But sunflower could be a good addition to a diverse wildflower population for bees,” she said, especially generalists like bumble bees and honey bees.
The NC State researchers are now planning to follow up on the study to examine whether other species of bees show the positive effects of sunflower pollen and to gauge the mechanism behind the mostly positive effects of sunflower pollen.
“We don’t know if sunflower pollen is helping the host bees fight off pathogens or if sunflower pollen does something to the pathogens,” Irwin said. Future research is aimed at figuring this out.
The Latest on: Bees
via Google News
The Latest on: Bees
- Backyard Bliss | Pick of the posies: choosing flowers to help feed the beeson January 12, 2021 at 8:00 pm
Choosing plants with good flowers for bees provides an abundant and reliable food source for our important little friends.
- Climate change reduces the abundance and diversity of wild beeson January 12, 2021 at 10:59 am
Wild bees are more affected by climate change than by disturbances to their habitats, according to a team of researchers. The findings suggest that addressing land-use issues alone will not be ...
- Menaced by murder hornets, bees decorate their hives with feceson January 12, 2021 at 9:39 am
To ward off giant hornet attacks, honeybees in Vietnam will adorn the entrances to their nests with other animals’ feces, a defensive behavior called fecal spotting, according to a paper published ...
- Banned Pesticide that Kills Bees is Allowed Again in the UKon January 12, 2021 at 8:37 am
A pesticide containing a neonicotinoid that harms bees has been approved for emergency use in the U.K. on sugar beet seeds threatened by a virus.
- Climate change reduces the abundance and diversity of wild bees, study findson January 12, 2021 at 5:11 am
Wild bees are more affected by climate change than by disturbances to their habitats, according to a team of researchers led by Penn State. The findings suggest that addressing land-use issues alone ...
- Cowart homer leads Bees by Renoon January 12, 2021 at 4:32 am
Kaleb Cowart smashed a three-run home run in the first inning to ignite the Salt Lake Bees as the team took a 9-3 win over the Reno Aces in front of 11,520 fans at Smith's Ballpark Thursday night.
- Pesticide believed to kill bees is authorised for use in Englandon January 9, 2021 at 4:36 am
A pesticide believed to kill bees has been authorised for use in England despite an European Union-wide ban two years ago, the government has announced. Following lobbying from the National Farmers’ ...
- Hear them buzz: California man uncovers hive with 100,000 bees in backyardon January 8, 2021 at 12:09 pm
More than 100,000 bees in a beehive that weighed 70 pounds was uncovered in a California man's backyard. A wildlife management center helped safely remove the hive.
- Lawsuit Launched to Protect Firefly, Bees, Poppy Under Endangered Species Acton January 7, 2021 at 7:14 pm
The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice today of its intent to sue the Trump administration for failing to protect four imperiled insects and one plant under the Endangered Species ...
via Bing News