Plant Pest News

Sunflower pollen protects bees from parasites

 Plant pollens vary in quality as food sources for bees, and pollen from the sunflower family (the family that includes dandelions, daisies, and thistles) is known to have some unpleasant qualities. Bees fed exclusively sunflower pollen often develop poorly, slowly, or not at all. Yet many bee species collect pollen exclusively from this family; in fact, specialization on sunflower pollen has evolved multiple times in bees. Research by Dakota Spear and colleagues suggests that parasites could be part of the explanation.

Jessica R. K. Forrest   

Sarah Silverman, at the time a McGill University undergraduate doing summer research on solitary mason bees at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) in Colorado, USA (with University of Ottawa professor Jessica Forrest), noticed that bee species specializing on sunflower pollen were not attacked by a common brood-parasitic wasp, Sapyga. The wasp frequently lays eggs in the nests of other mason bee species, where its larvae kill bee eggs and eat their pollen provisions.

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