Academic journal article Science and Children

The Benefits of Sunflower Pollen on Bees

Academic journal article Science and Children

The Benefits of Sunflower Pollen on Bees

Article excerpt

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 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. Sunflower pollen also protected European honey bees 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.

Annually, some two million acres in the United States and 10 million acres in Europe are devoted to sunflowers, making sunflower pollen a ready and relevant bee food. …

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