The demise of bee populations across the country is a major concern. The economic and ecological impact of declining populations of these pollinators is staggering. For years, scientists have been diligently trying to determine both the causes and solutions to this problem. The findings of a study recently published in Scientific Reports suggest the sunflower may provide a glimmer of hope for some species of bees.
The study investigated the possible impacts of diets of two species of bees containing various pollens on populations of two of the parasites linked to high bee mortality and sluggish colony growth. The study reported European honeybees and common bumblebees that fed on the pollen produced in the flowers of sunflower plants were less infected with these parasites than bees that did not consume sunflower pollen.
In the words of Rebecca Irwin (one of the biologists that conducted the study), “We tried other monofloral pollens, but we seem to have hit the jackpot with sunflower pollen.”
Although this discovery is promising, the biologists that conducted the study were quick to point that, since sunflower pollen is low in both protein and some amino acids, the bees cannot live on sunflower pollen alone. As such, they need to supplement their diets with the pollen of a variety of other pollen-producing plants.
Consequently, if we homeowners want to help in the fight to thwart the ravages brought about by two of the deadly parasites that plague our bee populations, we need to add sunflowers to the variety of other pollen- rich plants growing in our backyard. I am please to say sunflowers are currently blooming in my backyard. I hope you will find a place for them in your backyard too.