Analysis of Pollen and Nectar of Arbutus unedo as a Food Source for Bombus terrestris (Hymenoptera: Apidae)

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The mineral, total amino acid, and sterol compositions of pollen collected by Apis mellifera L. were compared with the pollen of a plant consumed by Bombus terrestris (L.): Arbutus unedo L. This plant provides the predominant food resource for the main autumn generation of B. terrestris in southern France. Honey bees also forage on this plant, although only for nectar. The mineral composition of 30 pollen samples collected by honey bees is close to the presently known requirements of A. mellifera, except for Cu and Mn, which are substantially lower. The total amino acid mean composition of a set of 54 pollen samples fits the basic requirements of honey bees except for valine, isoleucine, and methionine, which are present in lower concentrations in all the samples. For pollen of A. unedo, the amino acid balance is not very different from that of the survey. The main sterolic component in pollen of A. unedo, β-sitosterol, is known to have antifeedant effects on A. mellifera. Honey bees cannot dealkylate C29 sterols like β-sitosterol or δ5-avenasterol to obtain C27 cholesterol and ecdysteroids. Because these phytosterols as well as cholesterol are nearly absent from pollen of A. unedo, the metabolic capabilities of Apis seem unadapted to this plant. On the contrary, pollen of A. unedo is freely consumed by B. terrestris, which develops huge autumn populations solely on this food. These data indicate that the sterolic metabolisms of B. terrestris and A. mellifera differ, allowing separation in foraging activity.

Keywords: Arbutus; Bombus; amino acids; pollination; sterols

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2005

More about this publication?
  • Journal of Economic Entomology is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December. The journal publishes articles on the economic significance of insects and is divided into the following sections: apiculture & social insects; arthropods in relation to plant disease; forum; insecticide resistance and resistance management; ecotoxicology; biological and microbial control; ecology and behavior; sampling and biostatistics; household and structural insects; medical entomology; molecular entomology; veterinary entomology; forest entomology; horticultural entomology; field and forage crops, and small grains; stored-product; commodity treatment and quarantine entomology; and plant resistance. In addition to research papers, Journal of Economic Entomology publishes Letters to the Editor, interpretive articles in a Forum section, Short Communications, Rapid Communications, and Book Reviews.
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