Wild Bee Nutritional Ecology: Integrative Strategies to Assess Foraging Preferences and Nutritional Requirements

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Bees depend on flowering plants for their nutrition, and reduced availability of floral resources is a major driver of declines in both managed and wild bee populations. Understanding the nutritional needs of different bee species, and how these needs are met by the varying nutritional resources provided by different flowering plant taxa, can greatly inform land management recommendations to support bee populations and their associated ecosystem services. However, most bee nutrition research has focused on the three most commonly managed and commercially reared bee taxa—honey bees, bumble bees, and mason bees—with fewer studies focused on wild bees and other managed species, such as leafcutting bees, stingless bees, and alkali bees. Thus, we have limited information about the nutritional requirements and foraging preferences of the vast majority of bee species. Here, we discuss the approaches traditionally used to understand bee nutritional ecology: identification of floral visitors of selected focal plant species, evaluation of the foraging preferences of adults in selected focal bee species, evaluation of the nutritional requirements of focal bee species (larvae or adults) in controlled settings, and examine how these methods may be adapted to study a wider range of bee species. We also highlight emerging technologies that have the potential to greatly facilitate studies of the nutritional ecology of wild bee species, as well as evaluate bee nutritional ecology at significantly larger spatio-temporal scales than were previously feasible. While the focus of this review is on bee species, many of these techniques can be applied to other pollinator taxa as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number847003
JournalFrontiers in Sustainable Food Systems
StatePublished - Apr 14 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Horticulture


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