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Harnessing Chemical Ecology to Address Agricultural Pest and Pollinator Priorities

Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Department of Project: 
Biology Dept.
Project Description: 

Many bee pollinators are in decline, and exposure to diseases has been implicated as one of the potential causes Novel work in my lab found that consuming sunflower pollen dramatically reduced bumble bee infection by a gut pathogen. These are exciting results, but at this point we have established this effect only in the lab, with a single sunflower variety, one bumble bee species, and one pathogen species. The proposed work would expand upon these findings by (1) ascertaining how widespread the 'medicinal' effect is across sunflowers and related species, (2) determining whether feeding bees sunflower pollen can reduce infection by multiple pathogens in the field, and (3) ascertain how much sunflower pollen is needed in the diet to reduce pathogen infection. Combined, these data will provide comprehensive information that can be used to inform choices about coflowering plants near crops that could help manage bee disease, and may provide options for beekeepers of pollen dietary supplements that directly reduce disease loads.