Honeybee nutrition is linked to landscape composition

Donkersley, Philip; Rhodes, Glenn; Pickup, Roger W.; Jones, Kevin C.; Wilson, Kenneth. 2014 Honeybee nutrition is linked to landscape composition. Ecology and Evolution, 4 (21). 4195-4206.

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Declines in insect pollinators in Europe have been linked to changes in land use. Pollinator nutrition is dependent on floral resources (i.e., nectar and pollen), which are linked to landscape composition. Here, we present a stratified analysis of the nutritional composition of beebread in managed honeybee hives with a view to examining potential sources of variation in its nutritional composition. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that beebread composition correlates with local land use and therefore available floral resources. The results demonstrated that the starch, lipid, and moisture contents of beebread are all highly conserved across hives, whereas levels of protein and nonreducing sugar increased as the year progressed, reducing sugars, however, decreased during the first half of the year and then increased toward the end. Local land use around hives was quantified using data from the Countryside Survey 2007 Land Cover Map. Bee-bread protein content was negatively correlated with increasing levels of arable and horticultural farmland surrounding hives and positively correlated with the cover of natural grasslands and broadleaf woodlands. Reducing sugar content was also positively correlated with the amount of broad-leaved woodland in a 3 Km² radius from the hives. Previous studies on a range of invertebrates, including honeybees, indicate that dietary protein intake may have a major impact on correlates of fitness, including longevity and immune function. The finding that beebread protein content correlates with land use suggests that landscape composition may impact on insect pollinator well-being and provides a link between landscape and the nutritional ecology of socially foraging insects in a way not previously considered.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Parr
ISSN: 2045-7758
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - Official URL link provides full text
Additional Keywords: Apis mellifera, beebread, carbohydrate, Countryside Survey, land use, nutritional ecology, protein
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Biology and Microbiology
Date made live: 24 Oct 2014 10:04 +0 (UTC)

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