Does pollen diversity influence honey bee colony health?

Sandra Barroso-Arévalo, Marina Vicente-Rubiano, José A. Ruiz, Antonio Bentabol, José M. Sánchez-Vizcaíno


Aim of study: Colony losses of the western honey bee Apis mellifera have increased alarmingly in recent years. These losses have been attributed to nutritional deficiency, environmental conditions, viral infection and the global presence of the ectoparasite mite Varroa destructor. Ensuring pollen availability may improve colony health, so the present study aimed to examine whether the diversity of pollen collected by the colony as well as landscape characteristics of apiaries influence colony health.

Area of study: Tenerife Island (Canary Islands, Spain).

Material and methods: Colonies at eight apiaries were sampled in late summer to determine colony strength, presence of varroa and load of DWV. Pollen was collected during six months and analyzed. Landscape of each apiary was spatially analyzed.

Main results: Pollen diversity did not correlate significantly with colony strength or the load of DWV, but it positively correlated with varroa levels. In contrast, DWV load correlated with varroa infestation, and both variables negatively correlated with colony strength. Weak colonies were located in landscapes with areas less suitable for bee nutrition.

Research highlights: These results suggest that DWV and varroa infection as well as landscape characteristics influence colony survival, while pollen diversity on its own does not seem to have direct relationship. Our findings highlight the usefulness of DWV and varroa as predictors of colony losses, and they suggest the need to carefully assess honey bee apiary location in order to ensure adequate nutritional resources.


viruses; DWV; varroa; colony losses; nutrition; landscape

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DOI: 10.5424/sjar/2019173-13991