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.
Receive an email update when we add a new BEES article.
The Latest on: Bees
via Google News
The Latest on: Bees
- Barn fire in Ellicott kills bees on November 12, 2018 at 3:33 pm
ELLICOTT – Falcon firefighters were contacted about a barn fire in the 15200 block of Ellicott Highway at about 12:30 p.m. Monday afternoon. When crews arrived, the building was fully engulfed ... […]
- Can listening to bees tell us why they are in decline? on November 12, 2018 at 2:49 pm
Can artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning help save the world's bees? That's the hope of scientists who are scrambling to reverse the dramatic declines in bee populations. Bees are in trou... […]
- Speaking with children about sex and love "Beyond Birds and Bees" on November 12, 2018 at 8:02 am
After a life-changing move to Amsterdam, author Bonnie J. Rough was shocked by the major differences in sex education compared to the U.S. Upon moving back to the states, she was motivated to ... […]
- Scientists Spy On Bees, See Harmful Effects Of Common Insecticide on November 11, 2018 at 12:24 pm
A team of researchers peered inside bumblebee colonies and spied on insects individually labelled with a tiny tag to figure out exactly how exposure to a common insecticide changes their behavior in t... […]
- Key injuries slow Bees in season-ending setback on November 10, 2018 at 4:22 pm
DAVENPORT — Jake Romani wasn’t going to watch his career end from the sidelines. Twice Saturday, the St. Ambrose senior quarterback looked like he could barely walk, a pair of first-half sacks ... […]
- New Tracking System Shows How Pesticides Affect Bees’ Behavior on November 10, 2018 at 3:50 pm
A new study that involved fitting bees with unique tracking tags shows that exposure to a common pesticide neonicotinoid dramatically affects bees’ health and impairs their social behavior. Bees are i... […]
- Bees buzz plast Flucos in Region 3C playoffs on November 9, 2018 at 7:37 pm
AMHERST — With five offensive starters sidelined by injuries, Brookville entered the playoffs Friday night looking for help. Call off the search, Bees. Micah Glaize has all the answers you need. For t... […]
- Arvada HOA approves backyard bees, then backs off its decision on November 9, 2018 at 5:04 pm
Editor's note: Contact7 seeks out audience tips and feedback to help people in need, resolve problems and hold the powerful accountable. If you know of a community need our call center could address, ... […]
- Exposure to pesticides makes bees less social, reduces colony size on November 9, 2018 at 12:06 pm
Nov. 9 (UPI) --Exposure to pesticides can reduce the size of bee colonies and cause the insect to become less social. Researchers published those findings in the journal Science. A team of researchers ... […]
via Bing News