How does flower pollen help bees stay healthy?
The short answer is:
Research shows that high protein flower pollen aids bee development, whilst consuming pollen from a variety of flowers may help bees fight infections and improve bee immunity.
It is known that the availability of floral resources from which honey bees obtain their nutrition is of critical importance for the wellbeing of honey bees (for both individual bees and for larvae) and that both nectar and pollen for overall hive nutrition is of critical importance to the survival and development of honey bee colonies (1).
Bees gain a number of crucial protein amino acids from pollen, as well as fats.
However, the intensification of agriculture and landscape change can affect the overall availability, quality and diversity of nectar and pollen.
So what difference do quality and diversity of pollen make to individual bee and bee colony health?
Garance Di Pasquale et al (2) were interested to answer this question.
To do this they examined the effect of different pollen protein quality and pollen diversity on two aspects of honey bee and colony health:
In summary, the parameters they examined are linked directly to bee and colony health:
They found the following results:
The researchers commented:
The authors suggest that their findings may help to explain how agricultural intensification is damaging to the health and survival of honey bees.
In view of the research findings, we might also consider the potential impact of intense agriculture on wild pollinators and beneficial insects.
Cutting out harmful insecticides and pesticides and swapping them for eco-friendly alternatives, and adding diverse, quality pollinator margins could greatly assist bees and other pollinators.
The study simply provides further evidence that to help bees, it's a good idea to create a bee garden with a good range of bee-friendly flowers.
Select a range of flower shapes, provide blooms through the seasons (include a winter-flowering shrub or two if you can), and keep toxic chemicals out of the garden.
1. Brodschneider, R., Crailsheim, K. Nutrition and health in honey bees. Apidologie 41, 278–294 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1051/apido/2010012
2. Di Pasquale G, Salignon M, Le Conte Y, Belzunces
LP, Decourtye A, Kretzschmar A, et al. (2013) Influence of Pollen Nutrition on
Honey Bee Health: Do Pollen Quality and Diversity Matter? PLoS ONE 8(8):
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