A new study highlights potential reasons for the change in the foraging habits of bumblebees. Using advanced molecular techniques called pollen metabarcoding, researchers investigated the interactions between bumblebees and plants in Cuxhaven, Germany, and how they have changed over 60 years.
Their findings help us understand the connections between the availability of floral resources and changing landscapes. The study, led by the Botany Department of the University of Kassel (Germany) in collaboration with the Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change (Germany), used bumblebee specimens from historical museum collections dating back to 1968/69 and compared them with bumblebees. . collected in the field in 2019.
By analyzing the pollen samples attached to the bodies of the bees, the researchers were able to identify the plant species they were interacting with. The results revealed significant changes in the foraging habits of bumblebees between the late 1960s and more recent sampling periods. In particular, there was a noticeable decrease in interactions with Fabaceae plants in 2019 compared to the past.
“This suggests that changes in the landscape have led to changes in the availability of floral resources, which may contribute to the decline of specialized bee species,” the researchers explained. “The successful use of scalable molecular techniques to analyze historical pollen samples highlights the value of museum collections as a valuable resource for biodiversity research,” they added.
“This study, published in the journal Metabarcoding and Metagenomicsserves as a proof of concept for comparative analysis of recent and historical pollination data, providing important insight into changes in foraging trends of bumblebees over time.”
“In conclusion, this study contributes to our understanding of bumblebee interactions in searching for resources and the impact of landscape changes on their foraging habits,” said the researchers. Their findings highlight the importance of conserving and restoring suitable habitats for pollinators. “Future research in this field is expected to provide important insights for the conservation and management of pollinators and their important role in sustaining ecosystems,” they concluded.
Andreas Kolter et al, Pollen metabarcoding of museum specimens and recently collected bumblebees (Bombus) reveals foraging shifts, Metabarcoding and Metagenomics (2023). DOI: 10.3897/mbmg.7.86883
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