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Choosy Bees

May 23, 2017

Rather than gather any pollen in the vicinity, bumblebees carefully select it based on their nutritional requirements.


Kalle Gustafsson CC BY 2.0, via flickr

A bee approaches cherry blossoms. (Kalle Gustafsson CC BY 2.0, via flickr)


Providing pollen for choosy bees. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Grains of pollen don’t come with nutritional labels; luckily, it turns out bumblebees don’t need them. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Penn State University entomologist Anthony Vaudo reports that bees can analyze the surface of a pollen grain and determine if it has the sorts of proteins and fats that it needs.

ANTHONY VAUDO (Pennsylvania State University):

Before it was determined that it was based on particular scents and colors, and here we’re showing that bees are actually making active choices and self-selecting their diet. So it’s very important to consider their nutrition for any conservation initiative.


He says even flower-filled gardens and farms may not have pollen with the nutrients the bees are looking for – sort of like malls filled with junk food options. The new finding is critical for farmers trying to maintain healthy bee populations, and conservationists focusing on protecting native bee species. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.  

Story by Bob Hirshon