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Honeybee Diet

As children we learned about the bees and flowers, and about pollen and nectar, but as researchers, we begin to question how well we understand the relationship, and the importance, of flowers to bees.  Honeybee diet is critical to their health, not only is the amount of food important, but the diversity of floral resources that the bees have access to matters tremendously to their overall health.

Bee diet is linked to the immune system development of each individual bee, and communally, to the colony strength and productivity. Pollen provides the bees with protein and fat, which are precursors to many complex molecules in their bodies, and nectar provides the carbohydrates that allow them to fly efficiently, the energy to control the temperature of the colony, and rear their brood. Nectar can also be stored as honey, allowing social bees to survive long periods of poor weather.

However, plants provide more than just pollen and nectar for bees, they provide sticky resins that help them seal their nest and many with antibacterial properties. Honeybees use these resins to create propolis, a weatherproof sealant for crevices and nooks.

Most recently, research has shown that plant metabolites, including plant hormones, may have a positive effect on bee health. This finding suggests a much deeper connection of plants and pollinators than was previously believed and has opened the doors to many interesting research questions.

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