Analyzing the dietary diary of bumble bee

Bumble bees are important crop pollinators and provide important pollination services to their respective ecosystems. Their pollen diet and thus food preferences can be characterized through nucleic acid sequence analysis. We present ITS2 amplicon sequence data from pollen collected by bumble bees. The pollen was collected from six different bumble bee colonies that were placed in independent agricultural landscapes.

We compared next-generation (Illumina), i.e., short-read, and third-generation (Nanopore), i.e., MinION, sequencing techniques. MinION data were preprocessed using traditional and Nanopore specific tools for comparative analysis and were evaluated in comparison to short-read sequence data with conventional processing. Based on the results, the dietary diary of bumble bee in the studied landscapes can be identified.

It is known that short reads generated by next-generation sequencers have the advantage of higher quality scores while Nanopore yields longer read lengths. We show that assignments to taxonomic units yield comparable results when querying against an ITS2-specific sequence database. Thus, lower sequence quality is compensated by longer read lengths. However, the Nanopore technology is improving in terms of data quality, much cheaper, and suitable for portable applications.

With respect to the studied agricultural landscapes we found that bumble bees require higher plant diversity than only crops to fulfill their foraging requirements.

Authors: Robert M. Leidenfrost, Svenja Bänsch, Lisa Prudnikow, Bertram Brenig, Catrin Westphal, Röbbe Wünschiers