A research team at Dartmouth College and University of Colorado Boulder has conducted a study that shows bumblebees that are parasitized have found natural ways to treat themselves.
For the study, researchers decided to look at one of the most common causes of colony collapse disorder: intestinal parasites. The specific one they looked at has the potential to “strongly affect [bees’] survival, reproduction and foraging behavior,” according to EurkeAlert. In an earlier study, researchers found that iridoid glycosides – found in floral nectar – have a positive medicinal effect on bees with parasites. For the new study, which will be published in the journal Ecology, “researchers looked at concentrations of two iridoid glycoside compounds, aucubin and catalpol, in nectar and pollen in four populations of turtlehead, a bee-pollinated wetland plant found throughout eastern North America. They then manipulated concentrations of the chemicals in those flowers to study their effects on bee foraging.”
The results? Bees with parasites preferred the flowers with the highest medicinal properties. Researchers discovered that these flowers released much more pollen to other flowers, which means plant reproductive success may be affected by nectar chemistry.