Gardening for Butterflies, Birds and Bees forum: Plants that produce pollen high in Omega-3 fatty acids

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Name: Julie
Seattle (Zone 8a)
Birds Hummingbirder Region: Pacific Northwest
Sep 13, 2017 1:52 PM CST
So, in the bee et al news thread I just posted a link to an article quoting research suggesting that bees need to have access to pollen that's high in Omega-3 fatty acids ( ), but unfortunately, urban landscaping isn't always sufficient and the deficiency leads to cognitive deficits.

I want to feed my bees well, and spread information to other like minded bee-friendly gardeners, but first... how do I figure out which plants will provide the necessary nutrients in their pollen? My first thought is it may be a safe assumption that plants high in Omega-3 would have pollen high in the fatty acid, but I have no data to support or discredit that assumption.

Does anyone here know how I can find out or who I can talk to to find out if this is the case? It's definitely going to change the shape of my garden in 2018, so I want to get on it. :)
[Last edited by Joolie - Sep 13, 2017 1:53 PM (+)]
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Name: Julie
Seattle (Zone 8a)
Birds Hummingbirder Region: Pacific Northwest
Sep 13, 2017 5:44 PM CST
So, this isn't the answer to my question, but it is a useful research article where they rank pollen from plants according to their protein contribution to honeybees. The link is to download a PDF.

Oct 4, 2017 6:15 PM CST
Gossypium Bee Bread

We are not allowed to post the URL, so go to Pubmed and enter the abstract number 28115909, which should retrieve the report for Gossypium bee bread.

Human CD36 is a fatty-acid link to cancer metastasis, according to a recent study from Spain. The fact that there are albino luna moths links to pigment-cell cancers such as melanoma. Thus, we would be interested in any omega-3 links to such moths, and jodyf documents an albino luna at Franklinton, Washington County, Lousiana (www.). Since the moth feeds on sweetgum (Liquidambar) which is a gold accumulator, there is a parts-per-million link to gold that theoretically could affect pigmentation chemistry in the larvae. In addition, jodyf's webpage has the geographical coordinates, and thus we would be interested in the heat-shock proteins operating in an albino luna's host-plant . In particular, in comparison to the ambiguously-behaving 27kDa protein in human breast cancer. The geographical location in Louisiana means multiple broods per year, which would naturally accelerate mutations in pigmentation genes.

Oct 4, 2017 6:56 PM CST
Recalling that human breast cancer heat-shock protein (27kDa) is an ambigous preotein depending on the host, we'll now link omega-3 to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to the albino luna and monarch:

www. search for "Answers from the Monarch Butterfly Expert" webpage scroll down to "From Saskatchewan:....'Is there such a thing as an albino monarch....fairly common in Hawaii....'

Someone is still yet to document a Hawaiian albino monarch or a Lousiana albino luna from a specific host plant.

Imperfect Albinism / Docosahexaenoic Acid
(Pubmed abstract number 8933584

One "honeybee Alzheimer's" link would be this one:

Ischemic Brain / Omega-3 / Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
(Pubmed abstract number 28966799
Name: Julie
Seattle (Zone 8a)
Birds Hummingbirder Region: Pacific Northwest
Oct 7, 2017 6:03 PM CST
INTERESTING! Thank you! I've not yet untangled all of this, but learning cotton bee bread had the highest amount of omega 3 fatty acids is so far more than I've learned since starting this little quest. Anyone I've gotten to answer me has usually either said "I don't know" or even "we don't have a way to find out" which made me wonder how they could do the original study in the first place.

I'm still working on understanding the paragraph regarding CD36, and haven't yet found the relevant portions of the PubMed article 28966799, but it's nice to have something to look into. Thank you!

Oct 9, 2017 3:25 PM CST
Best to post the titles of the pertinent articles if the abstract number does not work at Pubmed. The CD36 article is from Spain. tbc

Oct 9, 2017 3:42 PM CST
The omega-3 link would be that CD36 cells take up fatty acids. So omega-3 therapy in recoveries (humans, bees, mice, etc.) link to the ability or disability of CD36. Perhaps we can find the equivalent gene in honeybees with a Pubmed search?

We found the webpages for the articles by typing in the titles:

1.) Feb 2017 Spain: Pascual, et al, Cancer Discovery CD-36-Mediated Lipid Metabolism Promotes Metastasis

2.) Promoting Neurovascular Recovery in Aged Mice After Ischemic Stroke

Oct 9, 2017 3:58 PM CST
There are two entries at Pubmed for the CD36 equivalent in Diptera, we have yet to precisely link Apis (honeybees):

1.) Pubmed abstract number 19364529, or search www. for "The Insect SNMP Gene Family"

2.) Pubmed #18342246 or www. for "The SNMP/CD36 Gene Family in Diptera, Hymenoptera, and Coleoptera."

Oct 9, 2017 4:15 PM CST
By linking malaria, we once again tend to the possibility that albino luna moths are deliberately self-medicating on sweetgum against the parasite, although we have as yet not found the actual passgae in the article that mentions gold. First we must read the article to find where it mentions gold, at which pint it will link to gold accumulation in sweetgum (Liquidambar):

Type in at Pubmed: 27382019 or www. for "Infectivity of Plasmodium falciparum in Malaria-Naive Individuals is Related to Knob Expression and Cytoadherence of the Parasite" which states....'dramatic reduction in infectivity and the ability to adhere to CD36.'

Although in parts-per-million, the amount of gold in sweetgum may assist the luna moth (albino or otherwise) in self-medication against internal parasites. The adherence factor relates to uptake of fatty acids by CD36 in cancer metastasis.

Oct 9, 2017 4:55 PM CST
Pubmed combined search cd36[AND]apis, indeed retrieves the two references, so honeybee genus Apis correlates with the SNMP gene.

We are yet precisely to link the passage for gold in the malaria study, though so far the trajectory is promising, because reference #10 of that study links the albino luna-sweetgum-gold assemblage to human amelanotic melanoma:

'ref.10. Udeinya IJ, et al (1983) Plasmodium falciparum Effect of Time in Continuous Culture on Binding to Human Endothelial Cells and Amelanotic Melanoma Cells.'

Oct 9, 2017 6:12 PM CST
Cotton plants in the butterfly garden will include the Gray Hairstreak, formerly known as Strymon melinus (Huebner).

'The young caterpillars bore into the flowers and fruits of their hosts. Older larvae mnay feed on leaves of Desmodium, Vicia, Phaseolus, Lespedeza, Trifolium, MaLva, and Gossypium, and many others. Adult nectar sources are winter cress, dogbane, milkweed, mints, white sweet clover, tick trefoils and goldenrod.'
(Butterflies East of the Great Plains, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984)

RearingS. melinus in a butterfly house could produce a population accustomed to Gossypium, which would be of value in omega-3 metabolism studies.
Name: Julie
Seattle (Zone 8a)
Birds Hummingbirder Region: Pacific Northwest
Oct 10, 2017 5:12 PM CST
In related but not relevant to the original topic:

Oct 10, 2017 5:54 PM CST

No, actually Crithidia is relevant, though it will take a bit of work to post the material here. Butterfly lovers should note: Crithidia links to the milkweed bug, which if not mistaken, also suffers from Crithidia infection. Chimpanzees deliberately self-medicate with anti-malarial Vernonia species. We can post an excerpt about that later, too. Anyone who lives in Massachusetts should feel ashamed for not having Joe-Pye in their garden, because the Massasoit after which the plant is named prescribed it against the fevers of malaria. The active constituents are endoperoxides.

Mike Lansing, USA
Name: Julie
Seattle (Zone 8a)
Birds Hummingbirder Region: Pacific Northwest
Oct 16, 2017 2:01 PM CST

I appreciate all the info. When I said the link I posted was related but not relevant to the original topic, it's because the original questions I posed were, rephrased in a nutshell: "Which plants produce pollen high in omega 3 fatty acids? Is it safe to assume that a plant whose leaf tissue or fruit is high in omega 3 fatty acids also has pollen that's similarly high in o3fa?" Additionally I've been searching to find out how I ascertain the content of the pollen my current plants produce.

The link I posted most recently is specifically in regards to the secondary metabolites produced by plant nectars and how they affect the parasite load in the guts of bumblebees. So, yes, it's definitely related - bee health! - but not relevant to the original question. It's interesting and useful for anyone choosing their plants with bee health in mind, but very far away from contents of o3fa in plant pollen.

Sadly, I have still not been able to find any answers that concern finding out what's in the pollen in the plants currently in my garden. I assume I'd need specialized equipment if I wanted to find out very specific info on my exact plants, but I had hoped I might find some generalized info. After all, the original study somehow had access to pollen with specific levels of o3fa, AND they found some reason to want to study it in the first place. AND I hope they would have had assumed someone might find some way to make practical use of the information. But so far, I have had very little luck with this.

In the end, the truth is I am more concerned about bumblebees than honeybees, and the original study was specific to honeybees (though I had hoped for crossover). Bumblebees overall have the most appreciation for a diverse selection of native plants, so I'll quit trying to overthink it to the point of breaking my brain and instead make up a buffet of a mix of native and related-to-native plants I know for a fact bumblebees love (penstemon come to mind immediately) and for good measure plant a few things that are known to have high o3fa in their tissue or fruit. For bonus points I'll include a few of the named medicinal plants that may help bumblebees fight off the Crithidia parasite.
Name: Judy
Mid Atlantic Coastal Plain USA (Zone 7b)
Jan 20, 2018 5:31 PM CST
I'll "make up a buffet of a mix of native and related-to-native plants I know for a fact bumblebees love (penstemon come to mind immediately) and for good measure plant a few things that are known to have high o3fa in their tissue or fruit. For bonus points I'll include a few of the named medicinal plants that may help bumblebees fight off the Crithidia parasite." Joolie

Adaptive plasticity and the Wooly Bear caterpillar

"Another interesting point is that this behavioral/phenotypic plasticity can be lost. Without the correct environmental cues (or resources), any advantage conferred by the plasticity is diminished, and those genes can become too costly to maintain. When wooly bears can't access toxic plants because there are none in their environments, individuals who waste energy looking for them won't do as well. Over time, the self-medicating drive of the population will be lost: maintaining the full range of plastic response in the face of infection isn't worth it if the medicine you're looking for isn't around. Canalization, the pruning away of now-irrelevant ancestral experience, will ensue. So engaging with the medicinal plants our ancestors used isn't just an occasionally-helpful behavior: if we don't stay engaged, we run the risk of losing herbalism as a resource."

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