Floral hosts of leaf-cutter bees (Megachilidae) in a biodiversity hotspot revealed by pollen DNA metabarcoding of historic specimens

Publication Date Jan 21, 2021


South Africa is a megadiverse country with three globally recognised biodiversity hotspots within its borders. Bees in particular show high diversity and endemism in the western part of the country. Not much is currently known about the floral host preferences of indigenous bees in South Africa, with data only available from observational studies. Pollen metabarcoding provides provenance information by utilising DNA analyses instead of floral visitation and traditional microscopic identification to identify pollinator food plants, which can be time consuming and imprecise. In this study, we sampled pollen from leaf-cutter bees (Megachilidae) specimens maintained in a historic insect collection (National Collection of Insects, South Africa) that were originally collected from two florally important areas in South Africa (Succulent Karoo and Savanna) and used metabarcoding to determine pollen provenance. We also sampled pollen from leafcutter bee species with wider distributions, that extend across many different biomes, to determine if these ‘generalist’ species show relaxed floral host specificity in some biomes. Metabarcoding involved sequencing of the nuclear internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) region. Amplicons were compared to a sequence reference database to assign taxonomic classifications to family level. Sequence reads were also clustered to OTUs based on 97% sequence similarity to estimate numbers of plant species visited. We found no significant difference in the mean number of plant taxa visited in the Succulent ...


Floral Host Succulent Karoo Leaf-cutter Bees South Africa Areas In South Africa Pollen Metabarcoding Internal Transcribed Spacer 2 Megadiverse Country Savanna Regions Provenance Information

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