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Research update: Honey Bee Nutrition

The UF/IFAS Honey Bee Lab has collaborated on research that has led to two publications related to honey bee nutrition in 2019. Below are summaries of the research and the links to their full publications. More publications from the UF/IFAS Honey Bee Lab can be found at: http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/honey-bee/research/honey-bee-husbandry/publications-by-year/

Effects of supplemental pollen feeding

Key finding: There was an overall decrease in Nosema over time, however, there is no statistical difference between pollen feeding treatments in Central Florida on whether it increases honey bee colony strength or intensity of Nosema. There is no sufficient evidence that supplemental protein feeding promotes honey bee colony strength and/or productivity.

Significance: Many beekeepers in central Florida use pollen and nectar substitutes to encourage honey bee colony growth and believe it helps to reduce colony losses. Understanding the impacts of diet supplements can be used in best management practices.

For more details, read the publication here: https://academic.oup.com/jee/article/112/1/60/5156301

Mortensen, A.N., Jack, C.J., Bustamante, T.A., Schmehl, D.R., Ellis, J.D. 2019. Effects of supplemental pollen feeding on honey bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) colony strength and Nosema infection. Journal of Economic Entomology, 112(1): 60-66. https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/toy341.

honey bees with pollen pockets
Photo: UF/IFAS Communications

Pollen collected by honey bees in the U.S.

Key findings:

  1. When comparing pollen types collected in four states, California had the most pollen types and Texas had the least. Florida and Michigan fell in between with no statistical difference.
  2. Species richness was highest in all four states during the Spring season.
  3. Pollen sources collected by honey bees in all four states primarily came from plants in the Fabaceae (legumes), Anacardiaceae (sumac), Lythraceae (loosestrife), Arecaceae (palm), Asteraceae (daisies and asters), Fagaceae (oak), Sapindaceae (soapberry), Rhamnaceae (buckthorn), Salicaceae (willow), Myrtaceae (eucalyptus), Rosaceae (rose), and Brassicaceae (mustard) families. Pollen in Texas, Florida, and California also represented many trees and shrubs shown to be important for pollinators.

Significance: With urbanized areas growing at a rapid rate, understanding floral resources foraged by honey bees in urban and suburban areas can be crucial to identifying and promoting plants that can enhance colony health, while beautifying landscapes.

For more details, read the publication here: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0217294

Lau, P., Bryant, V., Ellis, J.D., Huang, Z.Y., Sullivan, J., Schmehl, D.R., Cabrera, A.R. Rangel, J., 2019. Seasonal variation of pollen collected by honey bees (Apis mellifera) in developed areas across four regions in the United States. PLOS ONE, 14(6): e0217294. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0217294.