Pollinator nutritional and foraging ecology
Our research and others has demonstrated the important of high quality nutrition to support bee development, reproduction, and longevity (see our review ). However, poor nutrition, due to decreased abundance and diversity of flowering plant species, is a major driver of managed and wild bee declines in the world. We used a nutritional geometric framework approach to evaluate the nutritional needs of bumble bees and identified their preferred protein to lipid ratio ; note that these two macronutrients are critical for reproduction and brood rearing. We subsequently showed that bumble bees specifically forage for pollen from flowering plant species to obtain these ratios , even in diverse landscapes .
We are currently expanding these studies to examine the nutritional ecology of honey bees, the role of soil quality in influencing plant-pollinator interactions, and screening native flowering plant species (in collaboration with Ernst Conservation Seeds) and ornamental flowering plant species (as part of a multi-institution USDA-SCRI funded program) to identify stocks that will optimally support bee nutritional needs, allowing us to designed targeted planting recommendations to conserve bee populations in multiple landscapes. Furthermore, these studies will allow us to assess how nutrition, flower morphology, and flower colour shape plant-pollinator interactions. Additionally, we are using DNA-barcoding to identify the floral resources preferentially used by honey bees throughout the growing season in urban areas.
Current lab members: Emily Erickson, Doug Sponsler, Tyler Jones, Melanie Kammerer Allen, Dalton Brough, Bryce Buck.
Former lab members: Anthony Vaudo
Collaborators (Penn State): Sinclair Adams, David Mortensen, Harland Patch, Laura Russo, John Tooker
Collaborators: Jeri Wright, Junpeng Mu, Vicki Wojcik
Funding: USDA-SCRI, Horticultural Research Institute, USDA-APHIS, USDA Predoctoral Fellowship (Vaudo, Allen), NAPPC Honey Bee Health Improvement grant, BBSRC transatlantic partnering award, anonymous donor to Center for Pollinator Research, USDA Postdoctoral Fellowship (Sponsler)
1. Vaudo AD, Tooker JF, Grozinger CM, Patch HM: Bee nutrition and floral resource restoration. Current Opinion in Insect Science 2015, 10(133-141).
2. Vaudo AD, Stabler D, Patch HM, Tooker JF, Grozinger CM, Wright GA: Bumble bees regulate their intake of the essential protein and lipid pollen macronutrients. J Exp Biol 2016.
3. Vaudo AD, Patch HM, Mortensen DA, Tooker JF, Grozinger CM: Macronutrient ratios in pollen shape bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) foraging strategies and floral preferences. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2016, 113(28):E4035-4042.
4. Vaudo, A.D., Farrell, L.M., Patch, H.M., Grozinger, C.M. and J.F. Tooker. “Consistent pollen nutritional intake drives bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) colony growth and reproduction across different habitats” Ecology and Evolution 2018, https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4115.