Background: Significant annual honey bee colony losses have been reported in the USA and across the world over the past years. Malnutrition is one among several causative factors for such declines. Optimal nutrition serves as the first line of defense against multiple stressors such as parasites/pathogens and pesticides. Given the importance of nutrition, it is imperative to understand bee nutrition holistically, identifying dietary sources that may fulfill bee nutritional needs. Pollen is the primary source of protein for bees and is critical for brood rearing and colony growth. Currently, there is significant gap in knowledge regarding the chemical and nutritional composition of pollen. Methods: Targeted sterol analysis and untargeted metabolomics were conducted on five commercially available crop pollens, three bee-collected crop pollens, three vegetable oils (often added to artificial protein supplements by beekeepers), and one commonly used artificial protein supplement. Results: This study reports key phytosterols and metabolites present across a spectrum of bee diets, including some of the major bee-pollinated crop pollens in the western United States. Significant differences were observed in sterol concentrations among the dietary sources tested. Among all quantified sterols, the highest concentrations were observed for 24-methylenecholesterol and further, pollen samples exhibited the highest 24-methylenecholesterol among all diet sources that were tested. Also, 236 metabolites were identified across all dietary sources examined. Conclusion: Information gleaned from this study is crucial in understanding the nutritional landscape available to all bee pollinators and may further assist in future efforts to develop comprehensive database of nutrients and metabolites present in all bee diets.
Chakrabarti, P., Morré, J. T., Lucas, H. M., Maier, C. S., & Sagili, R. R. (2019). The omics approach to bee nutritional landscape. Metabolomics, 15(10). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11306-019-1590-6