Pollen is the source of protein for most bee species, yet the quality and quantity of pollen is variable across landscapes and growing seasons. Understanding the role of landscapes in providing nutritious forage to bees is important for pollinator health, particularly in areas undergoing significant land-use change such as in the Northern Great Plains (NGP) region of the United States where grasslands are being converted to row crops. We investigated how the quality and quantity of pollen collected by honey bees (Apis mellifera L. [Hymenoptera: Apidae]) changed with land use and across the growing season by sampling bee-collected pollen from apiaries in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota, USA, throughout the flowering season in 2015–2016. We quantified protein content and quantity of pollen to investigate how they varied temporally and across a land-use gradient of grasslands to row crops. Neither pollen weight nor crude protein content varied linearly across the land-use gradient; however, there were significant interactions between land use and sampling date across the season, particularly in grasslands. Generally, pollen protein peaked mid-July while pollen weight had two maxima in late-June and late-August. Results suggest that while land use itself may not correlate with the quality or quantity of pollen resources collected by honey bees among our study apiaries, the nutritional landscape of the NGP is seasonally dynamic, especially in certain land covers, and may impose seasonal resource limitations for both managed and native bee species. Furthermore, results indicate periods of qualitative and quantitative pollen dearth may not coincide.
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Vol. 49 • No. 1