The plants bees need to maintain a healthy diet

The plants bees need to maintain a healthy diet

As critical pollinators, bees keep our agricultural systems going—but human-caused changes to the planet heavily impact their foraging options. To help protect our food security, we need more information about bees' own dietary requirements. Scientists writing in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems have studied the nutritional value of 57 types of pollen and found that bees need to forage from a variety of plants to balance their diet between fatty acids and essential amino acids.

The bees' needs
Pollen and bees are heavily interdependent: Plants need bees to spread their pollen to reproduce, and bees need pollen to eat. While bees get their carbohydrates from nectar, pollen provides proteins, lipids, and other critical nutrients. Anthropic changes to the environment which alter the availability and the properties of pollen risk malnourished bees.

Bees especially need to consume high-quality foods containing non-esterified fatty acids like omega-6 and omega-3. Without these nutrients, bees live shorter lives, have weaker immune systems, and are less able to cope with environmental stressors—but if bees consume them in the wrong ratio, they experience cognitive problems. Bees also need essential amino acids, which are necessary for cognitive health and reproduction—but if they eat too much, they may be more susceptible to certain parasites.

More information: Khara W. Stephen et al, Dietary Foundations for Pollinators: Nutritional Profiling of Plants for Bee Health, Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems (2024). DOI: 10.3389/fsufs.2024.1411410

Journal information: Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems

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