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Pollen Power

Bumble bees have discriminating palettes when it comes to their pollen meals, according to researchers at Penn State. With NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative funding, 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 at 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' preference 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."

Read more at Penn State News.

Want to read about more impacts like this? Check out Fresh from the Field, a weekly bulletin showcasing transformative impacts made by grantees funded by NIFA.

Farm Bill Priority Areas
Plant health, production, and products;
Bioenergy, natural resources, and environment
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Pennsylvania
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