Bees in degraded landscapes have lower metabolic rates, forage less and have lower nectar intakes than those in pristine environments, a new study from the University of Western Australia has revealed.
Led by Emeritus Professor Don Bradshaw from UWA’s School of Biological Sciences, the researchers used a unique method to measure energy expenditure of bees. This is the first time the metabolic rate and feeding rate of a free-flying insect has been measured in its natural environment and paves the way for future research on pollinators other than bees.
Before conducting the experiment the researchers thought bees in degraded areas would have a higher metabolism because they needed to travel further in search of food. In fact, the bees foraged less than those in natural woodland and depended on stored resources inside the hive.
“Bees pollinate one sixth of flowering plants world-wide and help to produce a third of what we eat, but unfortunately over the past few decades there has been a dramatic decline in global bee populations,” Professor Bradshaw said.
“Continual research in this area is vital in understanding their behaviour, how we as humans can impact their survival, and what we can do in the future to protect them.”
The world-first study was a collaboration between researchers from The University of Western Australia, Kings Park and Botanic Garden, Curtin University and CSIRO.
Read more about the secret world of bees here. Story credit: University of Western Australia newsroom.
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