• Research

Understanding bee pollen sources

Studying the metagenomics of pollen for ecological applications.

Project summary.

Start date: April 2016

End date: December 2017

Duration: 18 months

Funding: Norwich Research Park Links Seed Fund

Value: £30,000

Sequencing DNA from mixed samples of pollen to identify constituent plant species has important applications in palynology, allergy and ecology. So far, protocols have been developed for amplicon sequencing, but this does not allow reliable quantification of plant species within a sample – you only get presence or absence of each species. This does not allow analysis of the relative importance of different plant species in bee diets, for instance. Metagenomics offers the potential to generate this quantitative data. Analysing the relative importance of different pollen sources in bee diets will allow ecologists to identify the more important plant species being used as protein for larval rearing, and to do so at different times of year, in different landscapes, under different agri-environment schemes. In this study we will develop the ability to use metagenomic sequencing of pollen DNA to accurately quantify the relative amounts of different pollen species in mixed samples.


Prof Doug Yu


Dr Richard Davies


Dr Iain Barr


Dr Lynne Dicks

Cambridge University

Impact statement.

In recent years, there has been widespread concern about a decline in wild insect pollinators, for example with increased reports of bee colony collapse disorder. This work will lead to more accurate quantification of the relative amounts of different pollen species, thus enabling detailed data on the effectiveness of schemes aimed at supporting wild pollinators.

Related reading.