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Can bees meet their nutritional needs in the UK?

A new project is studying the nutrition of bees in the UK in a BBSRC initiative that aims to understand the decline of pollinators in Britain.

Eucera bee feeding on mustard flower (Image: G. Wright, Newcastle University)

Kew is a partner on a new BBSRC funded Insect Pollinators Initiative project. This initiative aims to understand the reasons for the decline in pollinator species in Britain.

The project, with Newcastle University, University of Sydney, University of Pretoria and the Hebrew University, Israel, asks whether bees can meet their nutritional needs in the UK. The current UK landscape is dominated by a few large scale, short-lived crops, which provide less diversity in food sources for pollinators than in the past. The research will determine the optimum nutrition for honeybees and bumblebees, and whether temperature, disease, toxins, or stress change the bees’ nutritional needs.

The project will also determine how nutrition influences bee foraging behaviour and whether nutritional deficits or plant toxins influence bee communication within the colony. The work will build an online pollen and nectar nutrient database that will help to predict nutritional shortfalls when they occur and advise stakeholders about the best plant species to cultivate.

The nutritional information on pollen and nectar will be used to develop an optimal bee food supplement.

Item from Dr Phil Stevenson (Natural Product Chemist, RBG Kew/NRI)
Originally published in Kew Scientist, issue 39

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