Bee Nutrition Research for Improved Wellness
Yesterday we blogged about research and a new product that will help bees survive after exposure to certain pesticides. Today we look at a different and exciting approach to bee wellness that can help all species of bees.
Oregon State University (OSU) researchers received a $500,000 grant from the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative to study the nutritional value of over 100 bee-pollinated crops, native plants, and common ornamental plants. This is to provide insight into optimal nutrition for bees amid the ongoing global decline.
Like humans, bees are attracted to certain flower flavors that don’t always deliver optimum nutritional value to them. This project will hopefully fill in some gaps and help scientists to understand why global bee populations are in decline.
This Honey Bee Lab project is led by Ramesh Sagili, OSU associate professor of apiculture and OSU Extension specialist, and Priyadarshini Chakrabarti, former OSU research assistant and new assistant professor at Mississippi State University.
They intend to build a database of macro and micronutrients of the flowering plants used in the study. This may lead to improved bee nutrition over time. Monoculture crops and loss of bee habitat both play a role in bee decline because they foster poor bee nutrition.
The database will be available to everyone. Even backyard gardeners can tap into it when deciding which plants to place in their back yards. This will lead to better foraging opportunities for native and managed bees.
This 4:18-minute video by Oregon State University Extension Service concerns bee colony loss:
A well-nourished bee has a stronger immune system and a better chance of surviving such hazards as pesticides, parasites, and habitat loss. It increases longevity and survival rates, according to Chakrabarti. Bee nutrition is an under-studied field when it comes to helping to save the bees.
It is important also to commercial beekeeping. For instance, understanding the quality of nutrition in almond pollen, considering this is a $7 billion industry that relies on honeybees for pollination annually.
Before the almond flowers bloom, there may be some wildflowers like dandelions and wild mustard, but there is often a shortage of forage for bees. This is a monumental issue, since 75% of US managed honeybee hives go to California’s Central Valley in February for almond pollination. Beekeepers feed their honeybees sugar syrup and protein supplements, which keeps them alive but is lacking in nutrition. According to Sagili, efforts are being made to have farmers plant extra forage alongside their orchards and fields, so bees have access to more nutrition.
The team will also research the impact of sterol biosynthesis inhibitors or SBI which are found in certain fungicides to evaluate their effect on the availability of pollen sterol and bee health, according to Sagili. Pollen sterols are a type of lipids that are necessary for bee growth and development. Findings will show how these extensively used fungicides might affect bees, and for the first time we will discover if this group of fungicides may compromise the quality of pollen.
Sagili and Chakrabarti are seeking citizen scientists for the study. If interested, please contact Sagili at 541-737-5460 or at email@example.com | Priya Chakrabarti at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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