Bumble bees like nutrient rich sources

Overhead view of a bumble bee colony. Each closed cell contains one developing pupa. Each open cell contains one larva in the active feeding stage. Cells with ‘shiny contents are old cells used to store honey. Pots with dark contents contain pollen. Bumble bees ‘brood” over the developing larvae providing the necessary heat for development. Photo M. Dogterom

From the ‘News from the world of bees’ Editor Fran Bach.   Jan 2017


Bumble bees have discriminating palates when it comes to their pollen meals, according to researchers at Penn State. The researchers found that bumble bees can detect the nutritional quality of pollen, and that this ability helps them selectively forage among plant species to optimize their diets.

“Populations of many bee species are in decline across the world, and poor nutrition is thought to be a major factor causing these declines,” said Christina Grozinger, director of the Center for Pollinator Research, Penn State. “Our studies can help identify plant species and stocks that provide high-quality nutrition for bumble bees and potentially other bee species, which will help in the development of pollinator friendly gardens and planting strips.” According to Anthony Vaudo, a graduate student in entomology who led the study, scientists previously believed that bees’ preferences for flowering plants were driven by floral traits, such as color, scent, morphology or nectar concentration. “Here we show that bumble bees actually choose a plant for the nutritional quality of its pollen,” said Vaudo. “This is important because pollen is bees’ primary source of protein and lipids.”

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