Sunflower pollen can protect bees

A new study from researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst offers some good news regarding the current bee epidemic, according to a Eurekalert article today.

The study suggests that providing bees with access to sunflowers could be the most effective way to ensure their health and overall well-being.

Through the study, researchers determined that two species of bees who sustain a diet of sunflower pollen had significantly lower infection rates by certain pathogens. Bumblebees also fared well on the sunflower diet when compared to other flower pollen diets.

Researchers discovered that sunflower pollen diminished infection by a pathogen in bumble bees, and further protected European honeybees from a different pathogen. Both of these pathogens are responsible for contributing to reducing the growth of bee colonies and causing death amongst them.

Honey bees on the sunflower diet had equal mortality rates to those not fed a sunflower diet, but mortality was not noted amongst bumblebees on the diet.

The article makes mention of sunflower pollen being a diet staple for many bees, with two million acres in the U.S. and 10 million acres in Europe being designated for bees.

Low in protein and certain amino acids, sunflower pollen isn’t ideal on its own for bees, but it’s a beneficial addition to their diets.

I find this to be very promising news considering bee populations have been steadily declining for several years now (if you didn’t know about this, check out any box of Honey Nut Cheerios). This is a definite advancement in terms of preventing bees from becoming significantly endangered and eventually extinct, and let’s be honest, the planet would be a complete wreck if it weren’t for these little guys.

I always encourage people to educate themselves and know the difference between a bee and, say, a hornet or a wasp. Hornets and wasps are jerks. Bees are friends, so let’s work to keep them around.

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