The impact of plant chemicals on bee health: designing nature's pharmacy
Bees rely on nectar (for sugars) and pollen (for protein) from plants to grow and survive. However, plants also provide other chemicals in their nectar and and pollen, several of which have been shown to have impacts on bee learning and parasite loads.
In previous work, we collaborated on a number of projects (with Professor Jane Stout at Trinity College Dublin, and Dr David Baracchi & Professor Lars Chittka at Queen Mary University of London) that investigated the impact of chemicals found in the nectar and pollen of plants on parasites in bumblebees.
We are now building on this work, through a collaboration with Professor Phil Stevenson, a world-leading phytochemist at Kew Botanic Gardens, to (i) determine natural exposure of bees to plant chemicals in the wild, (ii) determine the impact of these chemicals on bee health, and (iii) use this knowledge to design and test new plant mixes for flowering strips in agricultural areas that might act as a pharmacy to enhance bee health.
This work forms the PhD project of Arran Folly, and the post-doctoral research of Dr Hauke Koch. It is funded by the BBSRC through the Imperial-Royal Holloway BBSRC-DTP and through a grant to Kew from the Peter Sowerby Foundation.