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Mol Ecol. 2018 Dec 14. doi: 10.1111/mec.14975. [Epub ahead of print]

Quantitative multi-locus metabarcoding and waggle dance interpretation reveal honey bee spring foraging patterns in Midwest agroecosystems.

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Department of Entomology, The Ohio State University.
College of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State University.
Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, The Ohio State University.
Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology, The Ohio State University.
Department of Entomology, Pennsylvania State University.


We explored the pollen foraging behavior of honey bee colonies situated in the corn and soybean dominated agroecosystems of central Ohio over a month-long period using both pollen metabarcoding and waggle dance inference of spatial foraging patterns. For molecular pollen analysis we developed simple and cost-effective laboratory and bioinformatics methods. Targeting four plant barcode loci (ITS2, rbcL, trnL and trnH), we implemented metabarcoding library preparation and dual-indexing protocols designed to minimize amplification biases and index mis-tagging events. We constructed comprehensive, curated reference databases for hierarchical taxonomic classification of metabarcoding data and used these databases to train the Metaxa2 DNA sequence classifier. Comparisons between morphological and molecular palynology provide strong support for the quantitative potential of multi-locus metabarcoding. Results revealed consistent foraging habits between locations and show clear trends in the phenological progression of honey bee spring foraging in these agricultural areas. Our data suggest that three key taxa, woody Rosaceae such as pome fruits and hawthorns, Salix, and Trifolium provided the majority of pollen nutrition during the study. Spatially, these foraging patterns were associated with a significant preference for forests and tree lines relative to herbaceous land cover and non-flowering crop fields. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.


Hierarchical Classification; Molecular Palynology; Pollinator Nutrition; Quantitative Metabarcoding; Waggle Dance


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