Analyses of avocado (Persea americana) nectar properties and their perception by honey bees (Apis mellifera)

O. Afik, A. Dag, Z. Kerem, S. Shafir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations

Abstract

Honey bees are important avocado pollinators. However, due to the low attractiveness of flowers, pollination is often inadequate. Previous work has revealed that avocado honey is relatively unattractive to honey bees when compared with honey from competing flowers. We characterized avocado honey and nectar with respect to their odor, color, and composition of sugars, phenolic compounds, and minerals. Furthermore, we tested how honey bees perceive these parameters, using the proboscis extension response bioassay and preference experiments with free-flying bees. Naïve bees were indifferent to odors of avocado and citrus flowers and honey. Experienced bees, which were collected in the field during the blooming season, responded preferentially to odor of citrus flowers. The unique sugar composition of avocado nectar, which contains almost exclusively sucrose and a low concentration of the rare carbohydrate perseitol, and the dark brown color of avocado honey, had no negative effects on its attractiveness to the bees. Phenolic compounds extracted from avocado honey were attractive to bees and adding them to a solution of sucrose increased its attractiveness. Compared with citrus nectar and nonavocado honey, avocado nectar and honey were rich in a wide range of minerals, including potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, iron, and copper. Potassium and phosphorus, the two major minerals, both had a repellent effect on the bees. Possible explanations for the presence of repellent components in avocado nectar are discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1949-1963
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Volume32
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We thank Lia Yehonatan, Tahel Shejtman, and Pnina Weinberg for helping with the experiments. This research was funded by Research Grant No. US-3345-02R from BARD, the United States–Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund, by the Israel Ministry of Agriculture Grant No. 824-0101-02, and by a fellowship from the Israel Fruit Board.

Keywords

  • Apis mellifera
  • Citrus
  • Honey
  • Minerals
  • Nectar
  • Persea americana
  • Phenolic compounds
  • Phosphorus
  • Pollination
  • Potassium
  • Proboscis extension response
  • Repellence

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