Sunflower pollen may protect bees from deadly diseases

Sunflower Project
Credit: Sunflower Project
[A] new study offers hope for a relatively simple mechanism to promote bee health and well-being: providing bees access to sunflowers.

The study, conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, showed that two different species of bees fed a diet of sunflower pollen had dramatically lower rates of infection by specific pathogens. Bumble bees on the sunflower diet also had generally better colony health than bees fed on diets of other flower pollens.

The study showed that sunflower pollen reduced infection by a particular pathogen (Crithidia bombi) in bumble bees (Bombus impatiens). Sunflower pollen also protected European honey bees (Apis mellifera) from a different pathogen (Nosema ceranae). These pathogens have been implicated in slowing bee colony growth rates and increasing bee death.

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“We’ve tried other monofloral pollens, or pollens coming from one flower, but we seem to have hit the jackpot with sunflower pollen,” said co-senior author Rebecca Irwin, a professor of applied ecology at NC State. “None of the others we’ve studied have had this consistent positive effect on bumble bee health.”

Read full, original article: Sunflower Pollen Has Medicinal, Protective Effects on Bees

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