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Pollen shoppers with an eye for floral bargains?

Bumblebees will land only on the flowers that offer the best rewards

Oct 01, 2014
Pollen shoppers with an eye for floral bargains?

“Bumblebees are able to connect differences in pollen quality with floral features, like petal colors, and so land only on the flowers that offer the best rewards,” says a recent University of Exeter press release.  The team around Senior Lecturer Dr. Natalie Hempel de Ibarra showed in their study that bumblebees learn quickly which flowers provide the most nutritious pollen for their young, and can detect differences in pollen even before landing. This suggests that they may be able to tell just from the color of the petals, which flowers are worth visiting, say the authors of the study.
 
This particular bumblebee talent is an important piece in the puzzle of pollinator behavior that may well be leveraged by researchers to enhance bee-friendly insecticide application schemes and optimize usage guidelines.

To fill some more gaps in the scientific knowledge about pollinator preferences, Bayer CropScience is financing a pollinator study at the German University of Freiburg. Head of this academic research project is Prof. Alexandra-Maria Klein, who explains what knowledge gaps, particularly about wild pollinators, need to be filled: “We (…) don’t know much about which species of insect act as pollinators, or when and how exactly they do it. Another grey area is what food sources are important, especially for wild bees. The only way we can work out how to protect specific groups or species of bee is if we know which ones rely on which plants and vice versa.”

Prof. Klein runs the Nature Conservation and Landscape Ecology Department at the University of Freiburg. Her research work focuses on the ecology and biodiversity of pollinators in cultural landscapes.

Click to access the complete press release of the University of Exeter.


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