Nectar phenolics have a widespread effect on honey bees and their colonies. Because of their complex, non-linear interactions, it is difficult to assess honey bee health risks from exposure to real-world floral nectar with complex phenolic mixture. In the study, we investigate the bee losses of Apis mellifera in the flowering period of the Mexican sunflower Tithonia diversifolia in southwestern China, and use data mining approach to model the relationships between nectar phenolics and bee losses. The results show that bee losses are closely related to the phenolics of isochlorogenic acid, p-coumaric acid, chlorogenic acid and galangin, identified from the sunflower nectar. The nectar phenolics do not cause bee-poisoning to death, but can trigger bee colonies to explore food sources at risk. Also, each of these phenolics acts in a dichotomous mode, with above a certain value destructing colonies and below such value affecting little. This study provides new insight into the mechanism underlying the catastrophic events of bee losses or honey harvests, which have been reported worldwide.
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