What makes ornamental flowers attractive to pollinators?

Image of bee foraging on flower.

(Entomology Today) When it comes to flowers, the traits humans prefer – things like low pollen production, brighter colors, and changes to the height and shape of plants – are a mixed bag for pollinators. Researchers are now trying to understand what characteristics make ornamental plants attractive to pollinators. “I think this research is an important step to understanding how to design urban and suburban landscapes that are practical for humans and pollinators.”

Bumble bees exposed to Chernobyl-levels of radiation consume more nectar

Image of bumble bee in testing container.

(British Ecological Society) Researchers found that exposure to chronic low-dose radiation, similar to levels found in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, negatively affects bumble bee energy use by increasing their metabolic rate and food consumption. “An increase in nectar consumption for an individual bee could have important ecological consequences…”

Bee efficiency boosts diversified farming

Image of honey bee on pink flowers.

(Washington State University) The more diverse a farm’s plant population, the more beneficial it is for bee pollinators, and the more efficiently those pollinators work. “People want a silver bullet crop that they can plant that will bring in more pollinators, but that idea just wasn’t supported by our data. Having a variety, especially if they’re rare in a region, is the best way to increase pollinators… That means farmers can increase bee visits to their farm without adding more bees.”

Nectar is a sweet reward filled with toxic deterrents

Image of bumble bees on training flower.

(Bowdoin) Nectar, the sweet reward that entices bees to visit flowers, is a complex substance made up of several ingredients, including sucrose, fructose, amino acids, yeasts—and toxic compounds that normally deter insects from eating plants. One researcher is exploring this contradiction and what it might mean for the health of bees.

Pollinator friendliness can extend beyond early spring

Image of honey be on hyacinth.

(EurekAlert/American Society for Horticultural Science) “Establishing a season-long succession of flowers is critical in providing forage for pollinating insects throughout the growing season, which coincides with their life cycles. We observed pollinator activity on species of Crocus and Muscari from January to March, providing honey bees with pollen and nectar during normal times of severe food shortage.”

Researchers determine pollen abundance and diversity in five major pollinator-dependent crops

Image of researcher looking at container of honey bees in field.

(Oregon State University) The study found that almond, cherry and meadowfoam provide ample pollen to honey bees, but highbush blueberry and hybrid carrot seed crops may not. In addition, California almonds don’t provide as much pollen diversity as other crops. The findings are important because a diet low in pollen diversity hurts a colony’s defense system, which consequently increases disease susceptibility and pesticide sensitivity.

Caffeine does not influence stingless bees

Image of stingless bees at feeder.

(Phys.org/Universitaet Mainz) Caffeine is a compound present in various plant species and is known to stimulate the central nervous system of honey bees as well as humans. Some plants add caffeine to their nectar with the aim of manipulating the activity of pollinators. However, caffeine does not appear to influence the behavior of a stingless bee that is a main pollinator of coffee plants.