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Newsweek: City Bees Feed On Flowers, Not Junk Food

bbeUrban bees feed entirely on flowers when given the chance and eschew human food. Photo Lauren Nichols.

“There’s no evidence that bee colonies were feeding on human food at all,” Penick says.

By Douglas Main


In the paper, published May 17 in the Journal of Urban Ecology, the scientists looked at the molecular structure of honey produced by the bees. Honey produced from flowering plants has a specific isotope, or form, of carbon. Honey made from sugary human food, ultimately derived from grasses like sugarcane and corn, however, has a different isotope. Using this distinguishing feature, the researchers were able to confirm that honey produced by rural and urban feral bees came from natural flowering plants and not human-obtained sugars.

The research followed Penick’s previous work that found that many ants in New York City had learned to feed entirely upon human food, although some species prefer natural sustenance; Penick wanted to find out if bees acted similarly. (A related study by collaborators at NC State, published December 2014 in the journal Global Change Biology, found that ants within the grassy median of Broadway in Manhattan consume 2,100 pounds of food per year, the equivalent of 60,000 hot dogs.)

The research suggests that parks and plants in cities are even more important than previously thought.

Read the complete article here.