Bees are herbivorous insects, consuming nectar and pollen throughout their life cycles. This paper is a brief review of the chemistry of these two floral resources and the implications for bee nutrition. Nectar is primarily an energy source, but in addition to sugars contains various minor constituents that may, directly or indirectly, have nutritional significance. Pollen provides bees with the protein, lipids, vitamins and minerals that are essential for larval rearing. Chemical analyses of pollen have tended to focus on the protein component of bee-collected pollens as an index of nutritional quality. However, the substantial nectar content of such samples (∼ 50% dry mass) should not be ignored, especially in view of current interest in measuring the nutritional quality of floral resources for bees.
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