Pollen metabarcoding reveals broad and species-specific resource use by urban bees

Caitlin Potter, Natasha De Vere, Laura E Jones, Col R Ford, Matthew Hegarty, Kathy H Hodder, Anita Diaz, Elizabeth Franklin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Bee populations are currently undergoing severe global declines driven by the interactive effects of a number of factors. Ongoing urbanisation has the potential to exacerbate bee declines, unless steps are taken to ensure appropriate floral resources are available. Sown wildflower strips are one way in which floral resources can be provided to urban bees. However, the use of these strips by pollinators in urban environments remains little studied. Here, we employ pollen metabarcoding of the rbcL gene to compare the foraging patterns of different bee species observed using urban sown wildflower strips in July 2016, with a goal of identifying which plant species are most important for bees. We also demonstrate the use of a non-destructive method of pollen collection. Bees were found to forage on a wide variety of plant genera and families, including a diverse range of plants from outside the wildflower plots, suggesting that foragers visiting sown wildflower strips also utilize other urban habitats. Particular plants within the wildflower strips dominated metabarcoding data, particularly Papaver rhoeas and Phacelia tanacetifolia. Overall, we demonstrate that pollinators observed in sown wildflower strips use certain sown foodplants as part of a larger urban matrix.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere5999
Number of pages22
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2019


  • metabarcoding
  • plant-pollinator interactions
  • DNA barcoding
  • rbcI
  • conservation
  • second-generation sequencing
  • bumblebees
  • halictidae
  • eDNAA
  • sown wildflower strips
  • Halictidae
  • Second-generation sequencing
  • Metabarcoding
  • Conservation
  • Sown wildflower strips
  • Plant–pollinator interactions
  • EDNA
  • Bumblebees
  • RbcL


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