Honeybees are struggling to have enough good bacteria in their bee bread because of the changes in landscape initiated by humans, including monoculture farming and even commercial forestry, a newly published study revealed.
According to researchers from England’s University of Lancaster, the honeybees need a diverse collection of “microbiome” to store their long-term source of nourishment known as the “bee bread.” Unfortunately, the emergence of man-made changes in the environment— even well-intentioned ones— made it difficult for these good bacteria to survive.
Bee Bread: What It Is and How It’s Made
Bees collect nectar and many other substances from plants to transform them into honey, beeswax, and others. While honey serves as the stable source of energy in their beehive and wax provides the sturdy-yet-pliable moisture-proof structure of their home, another substance serves as their source of nourishment: bee bread.
Bee bread is the long-term food for the different species of bees, including honeybees. According to apiary experts, this substance is made from pollen gathered by the pollinators and stored in the empty comb cells where they are granulated. After gathering, the pollens are mixed with nectar and other digestive fluids and is sealed with drops of honey.
How Human Landscaping Affects Bee Bread
Since fresh pollen is high in moisture and is rich in protein, it is an ideal place for mold to grow. Moreover, it becomes more prone to spoilage and unwanted growths because of the temperature inside the beehive which lingers at about 37˚C. Because of this, it is important for honeybees to maintain a certain level of microbiome diversity to keep their food fresh for consumption in the future.
The team of scientists from the Center for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) and Lancaster Environment Center measured the health of microbiome in bee bread to determine how the man-made changes in landscape affected the pollinators. Through this, they discovered that the bacteria in the bees’ long-term food supply located in areas where humans practiced monoculture farming have a fewer variety of microbiome.
According to the data they gathered, the variety of good bacteria in bee bread is much lower in beehives located near grasslands with single grass varieties. To top that off, hives found in coniferous woodlands have significantly fewer microbiomes in bee bread compared to those taken from coastal landscapes and rough grasslands as well as those from areas rich in broadleaf plants.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Philip Donkersley, explained that their research shows how man-made alterations to nature have massive effects on bees, regardless of the size of the area. Furthermore, he reiterated that monocultures and the change in how people use lands indirectly affects the bee population since it has a direct link to the quality of bee bread, which is their main source of nourishment.
Alternatively, urban areas, where there are much fewer trees and plants present, also showed lower microbiome diversity in bee bread. In fact, even well-intentioned gardeners who plant “pollinator-friendly” plants in the cities may actually be doing more harm than good. This is because bees have evolved into needing plants that are native to the area they thrive in. Providing them with new species to work with may make it difficult for them to get the necessary microbiota they previously foraged in the flora they co-evolved with.
After seeing the decline in bee population, bee salvation advocates like BeesVita Plus-maker Healthy Bees LLC have repeatedly called for better awareness on how to improve bee life.
Among the most common mistakes people make is the lack of knowledge on the type of plants that should be replanted in a certain area. Because of this, experts recommend thorough research on what kind of trees and flowers are native to the place before going on a planting spree.