Pollen on bumblebees

Pollen analysis on bumblebees in a recent and historical context

By pollen metabarcoding analyses we investigate whether the decline of many bumblebee species in Germany can be explained by the decline of fodder plant biodiversity. The background of this project is that more than half of all flower-visiting bumblebee species in Germany have become rare in the last decades, three species are already extinct. The project, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG/SPP1991/352447832), aims to determine the pollen of bumblebees from natural history collections using molecular DNA metabarcoding methods to retrospectively analyze food availability. By correlating the former and current distribution areas of the fodder plants and insects, it can be determined whether altered food availability (hardly any potatoes, lentils and flax anymore, instead sunflowers, corn and rapeseed in the agricultural landscape and altered food availability in nature reserves) can be responsible for the bumblebee decline.

Image: B. Gemeinholzer
Bumblebees with pollen in natural history collections - here in the Zoological Research Museum Alexander König (ZFMK) in Bonn.
Image: L. Witzel
Bumblebee cage for bumblebee feeding experiments to determine how long pollen remains on the bumblebee body.


Kolter A, Gemeinholzer B (2020): Plant DNA barcoding necessitates marker-specific efforts to establish more comprehensive reference databases, Genome, https://doi.org/10.1139/gen-2019-0198

Keller A, Hohlfeld S, Kolter A, Schultz J, Gemeinholzer B, Ankenbrand M (2020): BCdatabaser: on-the-fly reference database creation for (meta-)barcoding, Bioinformatics, btz960, https://doi.org/10.1093/bioinformatics/btz960