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Data from: Omnivory in bees: elevated trophic positions among all major bee families


Steffan, Shawn Alan et al. (2019), Data from: Omnivory in bees: elevated trophic positions among all major bee families, Dryad, Dataset,


As pollen- and nectar-foragers, bees have long been considered strictly herbivorous. Their pollen-provisions, however, are host to abundant microbial communities, which feed on the pollen before/while it is consumed by bee larvae. In the process, microbes convert pollen into a complex of plant and microbial components. Since microbes are analogous to metazoan consumers within trophic hierarchies, the pollen-eating microbes are, functionally, herbivores. When bee larvae consume a microbe-rich pollen complex, they ingest proteins from plant and microbial sources, thus should register as omnivores on the trophic “ladder.” We tested this hypothesis by examining the isotopic compositions of amino acids extracted from native bees collected in North America over multiple years. We measured bee trophic position across the six major bee families. Our findings indicate that bee trophic identity was consistently and significantly higher than that of strict herbivores, providing the first evidence that omnivory is ubiquitous among bee fauna. Such omnivory suggests that pollen-borne microbes represent an important protein source for larval bees, which introduces new questions as to the link between floral fungicide residues and bee development.

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