Large-scale soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] cultivation has substantially transformed the Midwestern landscape in recent decades. Floral nectar produced by immense fields of soybeans has the potential to influence foraging ecology and resource accumulation of honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colonies. In this study, we combined microscopic and molecular pollen analysis of honey samples with waggle dance inference of spatial foraging patterns to demonstrate that honey bees routinely forage on soybeans in Ohio. In analyzing honey samples from across the state, we found ubiquitous presence of soybean pollen in honey collected from agricultural lands during soybean bloom. The abundance of soybean pollen in honey increased with the amount of soybean fields surrounding the apiaries. Honey bee waggle dances recorded during soybean bloom revealed that honey bees preferred soybean fields for foraging over other habitat types. With these results, future research efforts aimed at enhancing mutual interactions between soybeans and honey bees may represent an unexplored pathway for increasing soybean production while supporting honey bees and other pollinators in the surrounding landscape.
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20 September 2022
Soybean is a Common Nectar Source for Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in a Midwestern Agricultural Landscape
Rodney T. Richardson,
Reed M. Johnson