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19 October 2022 Bumble Bee Breeding on Artificial Pollen Substitutes
Antoine Gekière, Denis Michez, Maryse Vanderplanck
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Bumble bees are important pollinators for many temperate crops. Because of the growing demand for food from entomophilous crops, bumble bee colonies are commercially reared and placed in fields or greenhouses to guarantee sufficient pollination services. Besides, commercial colonies are increasingly used in laboratories for various bioassays under controlled conditions. For both usages, bumble bee colonies are commonly provided with sugar solution and honey bee-collected pollen pellets. However, the latter display several disadvantages since they may contain pollutants, pathogens, or toxic phytochemicals. Consequently, companies have developed pollen-free artificial diets to sustain colonies. Such diets are designed to boost worker health in the field, in complement of floral pollen collected by workers outside the colonies, but their suitability in ‘closed’ systems without access to floral pollen, such as in laboratory bioassays, is arguable. Here, we used microcolonies of the commercially important bumble bee Bombus terrestris L. (Hymenoptera: Apidae) to assess the suitability of five artificial pollen substitutes and three mixed diets. We also assessed the evaporation rate of the different diets as it could impact their suitability. At the end of the bioassays, microcolonies fed the artificial diets showed a reduced offspring development when compared to microcolonies fed natural pollen, which was partly offset by mixing these diets with natural pollen. By contrast, the artificial diets did not have deleterious effects on worker’s health. We discuss the potential nutritional and physical causes of artificial diets unsuitability for offspring development and encourage further research to accordingly establish appropriate pollen-free diets for bumble bee breeding.

© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Entomological Society of America. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:
Antoine Gekière, Denis Michez, and Maryse Vanderplanck "Bumble Bee Breeding on Artificial Pollen Substitutes," Journal of Economic Entomology 115(5), 1423-1431, (19 October 2022).
Received: 3 June 2022; Accepted: 25 July 2022; Published: 19 October 2022

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artificial diet
bumble bee breeding
offspring development
pollen substitute
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