Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 837–848 | Cite as

Early spring floral foraging resources for pollinators in wet heathlands in Belgium

  • Laura MoquetEmail author
  • Carolin Mayer
  • Denis Michez
  • Bernard Wathelet
  • Anne-Laure Jacquemart


In temperate regions, foraging resources for pollinating insects are particularly important in early spring, especially for social insects like bumblebees that are initiating colonies. Heathlands, protected open habitats under EU law, provide floral resources (pollen and nectar) for a range of pollinating insects. In early spring, in Belgian heathlands, only two floral resources are available: willows Salix spp. (Salicaceae) and bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus (Ericaceae). Our objective was to assess whether these two plant species provide quantitative and qualitative resources during early spring. We examined the springtime activity of flower visitors on both S. x multinervis and V. myrtillus flowers in relation to sugar concentration and composition in nectar as well as composition of polypeptides and amino acids in pollen. The chemical composition of pollen differed significantly between the two plant species. Salix x multinervis offered pollen with higher polypeptide and essential amino acid contents than V. myrtillus. However, nectar quantities of V. myrtillus flowers were relatively high compared to S. x multinervis. During the overlapping flowering period of the two plant species, flower visitors seemed to favor high quality and easily accessible pollen of S. x multinervis species and visited V. myrtillus mainly for nectar resources.


Willow Bilberry Bumblebees Solitary bees Pollen Nectar 



The authors thank Maryse Vanderplanck, Romain Moerman and Nathalie Roger (Laboratory of Zoology, University of Mons) for assistance during chemical analyses, Isabelle Van de Vreken (Unit of Biological and Industrial Chemistry, Gembloux, University of Liège) for amino acid analyses, Rudy Wattiez (Proteomic and Microbiology, University of Mons) for polypeptide analyses, Marie Warnier (CARI, UCL) for nectar analyses. Thanks to Michael Keith-Lucas (University of Reading) for help during pollen identification and thanks to Sami Yunus (Institute of Condensed Matter and Nanosciences, UCL) for the construction of the electric vibrators for pollen collection. We would like to thank the “Département de la Nature et des Forêts” for the permission to study in nature reserves and for the derogation concerning the sampling of plant and insect individuals. All our thanks to the two anonymous reviewers who improved the first version of the manuscript. The study was conducted in accordance with current Belgian laws. Funding was provided by FSR grant (“Fonds spéciaux de recherche”, UCL) and FNRS (« Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique » , Web Impact project, FRFC 2.4613.12).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Moquet
    • 1
    Email author
  • Carolin Mayer
    • 1
  • Denis Michez
    • 2
  • Bernard Wathelet
    • 3
  • Anne-Laure Jacquemart
    • 1
  1. 1.Earth and Life Institute-Research group Genetics, Reproduction, PopulationsUniversité catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  2. 2.Laboratory of Zoology, Institute of BiosciencesUniversity of MonsMonsBelgium
  3. 3.Industrial Biological Chemistry Unit, Gembloux Agro-Bio TechUniversity of LiègeGemblouxBelgium

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