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Picture of the Day

Sunflower pollen has medicinal, protective effects on bees

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. Bumblebees 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 bumblebees (Bombus impatiens). Sunflower pollen also protected European honeybees (Apis mellifera) 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 honeybees on the sunflower diet had mortality rates roughly equivalent to honeybees not fed a pollen diet and four times higher than honeybees fed buckwheat pollen. This mortality effect was not observed in bumblebees.

Visit Website | Image credit: Jonathan Giacomini