Date: 1st April 2020
Summary of a paper by Anthony D Vaudo et al; Current Opinion in Insect Science 2015, 10:133–141.
The authors begin this review by stating some known facts:
Bees require nectar and pollen as food resources to provide carbohydrates, proteins, lipids and micro-nutrients for 4 main reasons:
Bees experience nutritional stress when their food choices
are limited (i.e. when their choices of host-plant species).
In other words, if the variety of plants available to bees for food is reduced then they experience ‘nutritional stress’ – this could result in reduce colony sizes and reduced pollination efficiency.
Both adult bees and larvae require a constant supply of carbohydrate, although the carbohydrate requirement of larvae (which are relatively inactive) is lower than that of adults.
Both adults and larvae also require proteins and lipids (gained from pollen) for a variety of physiological functions, for example as the precursors of essential hormones. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are also essential for bees.
Nectar and pollen quantities and nutritional values vary between plant host species, and it is known that this influences bee foraging behaviours (it seems that bees balance their nutrition by visiting complementary food sources to ensure they get the best range of nutrition), but little is known about different nutritional requirements for different bee species.
The authors propose a rational approach to improving nutrition resource availability for bees, which should improve pollinator restoration by:
The authors state that by learning about the specific food requirements of bee species, and by understanding the variations between
pollens and nectar from plants, that this might enable them to
understand how these differences affect the behaviour of bees whilst they are foraging
(i.e. which plants do they visit, and how often, and how far will they fly to
find the most suitable plants on which to feed).
They say that by using this combination of
knowledge it will be possible to ensure that the best balance of plant species
are available to enable bee species to recover their numbers and to thrive.