The ancestors of today’s honeybees, living 50 million years ago, were picky when it came to feeding their offspring. The pollen they collected for their larvae always originated from the same variety of plants. But when they got hungry on the way, they ate pretty much everything that turned up in front of them.
This is the result of a recent study sponsored by the German University of Bonn, which also included researchers from Austria and the United States.
The scientists studied fossilized bees from two former volcanic crater lakes. Both the bees and the pollen on their bodies were well preserved. Analyzing the pollen distribution on the bees yielded tell-tale results:
21st century bees follow a similar dual strategy of foraging. It could therefore be crucial for the well-being of these important pollinators to find out where they are going and which flowers and plants they visit.
The original study, titled Specialized and generalized pollen-collection strategies in an ancient bee lineage by Torsten Wappler, Conrad C. Labandeira, Michael S. Engel, Reinhard Zetter and Friðgeir Grímsson, was published in the “Current Biology” trade journal.
Here is the link to the press release "Fossilized bees were finicky pollen collectors" of Bonn university.
It was also picked up by other online media, among them phys.org/news and smithsonianmag.com.