Seasonal variation of pollen collected by honey bees (Apis mellifera) in developed areas across four regions in the United States.
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For honey bees (Apis mellifera), colony maintenance and growth are highly dependent on worker foragers obtaining sufficient resources from flowering plants year round. Despite the importance of floral diversity for proper bee nutrition, urban development has drastically altered resource availability and diversity for these important pollinators. Therefore, understanding the floral resources foraged by bees in urbanized areas is key to identifying and promoting plants that enhance colony health in those environments. In this study, we identified the pollen foraged by bees in four developed areas of the U.S., and explored whether there were spatial or temporal differences in the types of floral sources of pollen used by honey bees in these landscapes. To do this, pollen was collected every month for up to one year from colonies located in developed (urban and suburban) sites in California, Texas, Florida, and Michigan, except during months of pollen dearth or winter. Homogenized pollen samples were acetolyzed and identified microscopically to the lowest taxonomic level possible. Once identified, each pollen type was classified into a frequency category based on its overall relative abundance. Species richness and diversity indices were also calculated and compared across states and seasons. We identified up to 64 pollen types belonging to 39 plant families in one season (California). Species richness was highest in CA and lowest in TX, and was highest during spring in every state. In particular, "predominant" and "secondary" pollen types belonged to the families Arecaceae, Sapindaceae, Anacardiaceae, Apiaceae, Asteraceae, Brassicaceae, Fabaceae, Fagaceae, Lythraceae, Myrtaceae, Rhamnaceae, Rosaceae, Rutaceae, Saliaceae, and Ulmaceae. This study will help broaden our understanding of honey bee foraging ecology and nutrition in urban environments, and will help promote the use of plants that serve the dual purpose of providing aesthetic value and nutritious forage for honey bee colonies placed in developed landscapes.