Adult pollen diet essential for egg maturation by a solitary Osmia bee

J Insect Physiol. 2016 Dec;95:105-109. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2016.09.011. Epub 2016 Sep 19.


Reproduction is a nutritionally costly activity for many insects, as their eggs are rich in lipids and proteins. That cost seems especially acute for non-social bees, which for their size, lay enormous eggs. All adult female bees visit flowers, most of them to collect pollen and nectar, or sometimes oils, to feed their progeny. For adult bees, the need for pollen feeding has only been detailed for the honey bee, Apis mellifera. To experimentally test for the reproductive value of adult pollen feeding by a non-social bee, Osmia californica (Hymenoptera: Apiformes: Megachilidae), young female bees plus males were released into large glasshouse cages provided with either a male-fertile sunflower cultivar or a pollen-less one. Females regularly visited and drank nectar from flowers of both cultivars. Abundant orange pollen was seen regularly in guts of females confined with the male-fertile sunflowers, indicative of active pollen ingestion. All females' terminal oocytes (next egg to be laid) were small at emergence. Oocytes of females confined with the pollen-less sunflowers remained small, despite frequent nectaring and exposure to other floral stimuli. In contrast, the basal oocytes of female O. californica with access to pollen had swelled to full size within ten days following emergence, enabling them to lay eggs in provided nest tubes. Adult females of this solitary bee required dietary pollen to reproduce; nitrogen stores acquired as larvae were inadequate. Early and regular pollen feeding in part paces the onset and maximum tempo of solitary bees' lifetime reproductive output.

Keywords: Apoidea; Foraging; Helianthus; Reproduction; Vitellogenesis; Yolk.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Beekeeping*
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Diet
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Oocytes / growth & development
  • Pollen / chemistry*
  • Reproduction