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Pollen-rich diets help combat varroa

Photo by Margaret Edge

We have known that honey bees use plant resins with antibiotic properties to control pathogens in the colony, but a multi-national team of researchers has just shown that pollen-rich foods help too.

In investigating this “social immunity”, they tested to see if pollen is beneficial for honey bees infested with the parasitic mite Varroa destructor which is associated with deformed wing virus (DMV).

First, they studied the effects of pollen on the survival of infested bees in the laboratory and in the field. They observed that a pollen-rich diet can compensate the negative effects of mites. They went on to identify the beneficial pollen compounds.

Under lab conditions, pollen did not have much effect on bees without varroa, but it did lengthen the lives of those infested by the mite. In the field, although the sample size was small, the effect was more dramatic with all of the control colonies dying out while two pollen-fed colonies survived.

The researchers think that it is the lipidic compounds of pollen that have a positive effect – but they don’t rule out other compounds. They even think that bees may be deliberately selective in their foraging to get the right balance of macronutrients.

The full research report published in Nature online can be read here.

The research gives further support to the field trials showing the beneficial effects of VitaFeed Nutri pollen supplement.

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