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Inorganic Nitrogen Derived from Foraging Honey Bees Could Have Adaptive Benefits for the Plants They Visit
Honey bees may help alleviate this limitation because their feces (frass) have high concentration of organic nitrogen that may decompose in soil and provide inorganic N to plants. The objectives of this work were to 1) estimate the amount of bee frass produced by a honey bee colony and 2) evaluate nitrogen mineralization and ammonia volatilization from bee frass when surface applied or incorporated into soil. The bee frass used in our studies had about 99% of total N in organic form with 22% of the organic N as uric acid and 0.4% as urea. Mineralization of bee frass N during 30 days at 25°C released 20% of the organic N as inorganic N when bee frass was surface applied and 34% when frass was incorporated into the soil. Our results suggest that the main source of mineralizable N was the uric acid present in the frass. Ammonia volatilization losses corresponded to 1% or less of total N. To our knowledge, this is the first study that evaluated N mineralization and NH3 volatilization from bee frass. The potential amount of inorganic N released from a typical colony of 20,000 bees foraging in a small area (3.24 m2) was estimated at 0.62 to 0.74 g N inorganic m−2 month−1, which may be significant at a community scale in terms of soil microbial activity and plant growth. Thus, the deposition of plant-available N by foraging bees could have adaptive benefits for the plants they visit, a collateral benefit deriving from the primary activity of pollination.
http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0070591
 
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