The western honey bee, Apis mellifera, is the most important and widespread managed pollinator species. Honey bee diet is based on nectar and pollen, and pollen diversity and composition, in particular, affect colony health and fitness. As landscape composition is strongly linked to floral resource heterogeneity, it could influence the resource intake of honey bees. This work aimed to explore how the composition of pollen collected by honey bees was modulated by seasonality and landscape composition heterogeneity in a mountainous cultivated area of Northern Italy. We selected 13 locations, and at each location, we placed two honey bee colonies from which we collected pollen samples every month during the whole flowering season for two consecutive years. We then analyzed pollen samples in the laboratory and determined the Shannon diversity index of each pollen sample and the temporal pollen taxon replacement. We extracted the cover of the main habitat types at three spatial scales and tested the effect of landscape diversity and composition using Principal Component Analysis. Honey bees foraged on a high number of floral resources, however, they mostly collected pollen from a small number of taxa, with pollen type composition changing throughout the flowering season. In early spring and late summer, most pollen grains were collected from a few plant species, while from May to August the number of collected pollen types was significantly higher. Landscape composition affected pollen diversity only at the end of the flowering season. While honey bees were able to collect highly diverse pollen throughout spring and summer regardless of landscape composition, in late summer, when pollen collected is fundamental for the overwintering of the colony and its development in the following season, semi-natural areas became crucial for honey bee foraging activities, with pollen diversity increasing with increasing percentages of semi-natural areas. Our research highlighted the importance for honey bees of certain seasonal resources and of semi-natural habitats at the end of the flowering season, which ensure the subsistence of their colonies throughout the year.

Seasonality and landscape composition drive the diversity of pollen collected by managed honey bees

Valeria Malagnini
;
Andree Cappellari
;
Lorenzo Marini;Paolo Fontana
2022

Abstract

The western honey bee, Apis mellifera, is the most important and widespread managed pollinator species. Honey bee diet is based on nectar and pollen, and pollen diversity and composition, in particular, affect colony health and fitness. As landscape composition is strongly linked to floral resource heterogeneity, it could influence the resource intake of honey bees. This work aimed to explore how the composition of pollen collected by honey bees was modulated by seasonality and landscape composition heterogeneity in a mountainous cultivated area of Northern Italy. We selected 13 locations, and at each location, we placed two honey bee colonies from which we collected pollen samples every month during the whole flowering season for two consecutive years. We then analyzed pollen samples in the laboratory and determined the Shannon diversity index of each pollen sample and the temporal pollen taxon replacement. We extracted the cover of the main habitat types at three spatial scales and tested the effect of landscape diversity and composition using Principal Component Analysis. Honey bees foraged on a high number of floral resources, however, they mostly collected pollen from a small number of taxa, with pollen type composition changing throughout the flowering season. In early spring and late summer, most pollen grains were collected from a few plant species, while from May to August the number of collected pollen types was significantly higher. Landscape composition affected pollen diversity only at the end of the flowering season. While honey bees were able to collect highly diverse pollen throughout spring and summer regardless of landscape composition, in late summer, when pollen collected is fundamental for the overwintering of the colony and its development in the following season, semi-natural areas became crucial for honey bee foraging activities, with pollen diversity increasing with increasing percentages of semi-natural areas. Our research highlighted the importance for honey bees of certain seasonal resources and of semi-natural habitats at the end of the flowering season, which ensure the subsistence of their colonies throughout the year.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11577/3453700
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