Planting bee-friendly flowers is the latest trend in a variety of cities around the world. In the UK, amateur gardeners often attempt to draw these insects, and in France, farmers have donated land to beekeepers. Other countries, including Canada, cities adopt pollinators. Some companies even are involved in plantations of wildflowers initiatives.
However, not all plants are able to meet the nutritional needs of bees, and some could be more beneficial than others for the balance of bee diets.
Lavender is a magnet for a range of pollinating insects. It is widely regarded as one of the most beneficial plants for bees. It is a great source of nectar (energy to pollinate insects); however, the pollen it produces is nutritionally deficient for bees. Demosthene / Wikimedia Commons
From the beginning of spring until the autumn months, pollinating insects, like bees, make use of the abundance of food resources provided by plants, in the form of pollen and nectar. Nectar is the primary source of energy that is essential for all insect activity, and pollen serves as a construction material, particularly for larvae, in order to attain their final form.
The nurse bees inhale nectar, pollen and water to nourish the larvae. After digestion, the substances are then used to create jelly. However, its calorific value is contingent on the nectar and the pollen utilized.
Honeybee queen larvae swaying inside royal jelly. Their food is made by nurse bees that digest nectar, pollen and water. Waugsberg / Wikimedia Commons
Jelly building blocks
Jelly is organic matter that is made up of organic substances, including particular sugars, lipids, amino-acids, vitamins, proteins, and enzymes. Each of these organic substrates is composed of atoms made of specific chemical elements, such as carbon nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, copper and zinc.
Research that studies the percentages of different elements that make up living organisms as well as the food resources they consume is known as ecological stoichiometry, also known as stoichiometry. This method was employed to aid in our study of honey bees’ nutrition needs and how they can be met only if the diversity of pollen and the right species composition are available to their needs.
There is a crucial characteristic that separates organic materials from those made of atoms. Organic substrates can be capable of mutability (for instance, they could transform into a variety of substrates) and could be created by living organisms using the atoms available.
Atoms are immutable. This means they can’t be changed into different elements and cannot be created in living cells. Thus, organic substrates that are mutable are made up of immutable components. What is the relationship to the creation of high-quality jelly for growing bee larvae?
Sugars – which are the primary sources of energy for bees comprise only three components: carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Other organic substances that are required for bodybuilding and maintenance are made up of additional elements in addition to oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen, like nitrogen and phosphorous, as well as sodium, copper, potassium, and zinc. Atoms from these other elements need to be integrated into the bodies of developing bee larvae.
Pollen is the sole source of these essential elements for bees. So, in order to produce jelly of high quality, pollen needs to provide bees with the necessary proportions of bodybuilding components. Do different species of plants have every pollen that is similar to this?
Seven vital bee foods
Our most recent study revealed that different pollen species differ in their composition and consequently offer atoms of certain elements in different proportions. These proportions can be unbalanced in bees because they have too many bits from certain features and not enough of other elements.
Apiary from Apiary of the Institute of Environmental Sciences, Jagiellonian University (Poland), which was the location where the study was conducted. Photo: The person who coordinated the research initiative, Michal Filipiak. Pawel Dudzik; https://www.facebook.com/paweldudzikphoto/
Our research shows the importance of seven essential elements crucial in the lives of bees, including sodium, copper, phosphorous, sulfur, nitrogen, potassium, and zinc.
The elemental atoms are typically not found in pollen, but they must be located in large quantities in the food chain of the growing bee larvae. However, the amounts of these elements in pollen display significant taxonomic variation. This means that certain plants produce pollen deficient in these essential elements, whereas others produce pollen that is rich in these elements.