Assessing pollen nutrient content: a unifying approach for the study of bee nutritional ecology. Academic Article uri icon


  • Poor nutrition and landscape changes are regularly cited as key factors causing the decline of wild and managed bee populations. However, what constitutes 'poor nutrition' for bees currently is inadequately defined. Bees collect and eat pollen: it is their only solid food source and it provides a broad suite of required macro- and micronutrients. Bees are also generalist foragers and thus the different pollen types they collect and eat can be highly nutritionally variable. Therefore, characterizing the multidimensional nutrient content of different pollen types is needed to fully understand pollen as a nutritional resource. Unfortunately, the use of different analytical approaches to assess pollen nutrient content has complicated between-studies comparisons and blurred our understanding of pollen nutrient content. In the current study, we start by reviewing the common methods used to estimate protein and lipids found in pollen. Next, using monofloral Brassica and Rosa pollen, we experimentally reveal biases in results using these methods. Finally, we use our collective data to propose a unifying approach for analysing pollen nutrient content. This will help researchers better study and understand the nutritional ecology-including foraging behaviour, nutrient regulation and health-of bees and other pollen feeders. This article is part of the theme issue 'Natural processes influencing pollinator health: from chemistry to landscapes'.

published proceedings

  • Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci

altmetric score

  • 24.68

author list (cited authors)

  • Lau, P., Lesne, P., Grebenok, R. J., Rangel, J., & Behmer, S. T.

citation count

  • 11

complete list of authors

  • Lau, Pierre||Lesne, Pierre||Grebenok, Robert J||Rangel, Juliana||Behmer, Spencer T

publication date

  • June 2022