Honeybee colonies provide foragers with costly fuel to promote pollen collection.

Research paper by Ken-Ichi KI Harano

Indexed on: 30 May '20Published on: 30 May '20Published in: Journal of Comparative Physiology A


Honeybee pollen foragers departing the hive carry concentrated nectar to use as fuel for flight and glue for forming pollen loads. Since nectar is concentrated by in-hive bees at the cost of time and energy, using concentrated nectar increases the cost of foraging at the colony level. This experimental study explored the potential benefit to honeybees of using concentrated nectar for pollen collection by diluting nectar carried by pollen foragers from the hive. Mass feeding with 30% sugar solution successfully reduced the crop-load-sugar concentration in putative pollen foragers departing the hive, but while those bees tended to increase the crop-load volume, such increase did not fully compensate for the decreased amount of dissolved sugars in the crop load. Feeding 30% sugar solution reduced the pollen load dry weight by approx. 10-20% compared to the unfed control and to another test group fed 60% sugar solution. In addition, the pollen load size and sugar concentration of crop load remaining in returning pollen foragers was positively correlated. These results clearly show the advantage to honeybees of using concentrated nectar for pollen foraging.