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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: IMPROVE NUTRITION FOR HONEY BEE COLONIES TO STIMULATE POPULATION GROWTH, INCREASE QUEEN QUALITY, AND REDUCE THE IMPACT OF VARROA MITES

Location: Honey Bee Research

2010 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
1: Determine the nutrients in pollen that promote worker longevity. 1.A. Determine the effects of pollen mixtures on worker protein and lipid stores and longevity. 1.B. Characterize the chemical composition of pollen mixtures that optimize worker protein and lipid stores and longevity.

2: Determine the effects of undigested saccharides in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) on worker physiology and longevity. 2.A. Identify the saccharides in HFCS. 2.B: Determine the effect of saccharides in HFCS on worker physiology and longevity.

3: Evaluate the effects of supplemental feeding on Varroa tolerance, queen production and foraging activity of honey bee colonies. 3.A. Modify the MegaBee diet by adding chemical components that were identified in the pollen mixture analysis. 3.B. Determine the effects of nutrition on Varroa infestation and reproduction in worker and drone cells. 3.C. Determine the role of nutrition on queen production and reproductive potential. 3.D. Evaluate the effects of supplemental protein feeding on the foraging rates of honey bee colonies. 3.E. Improving honey bee immune response to CCD by determining the role of symbiotic microbes in bee nutrition.


1b.Approach (from AD-416)
1. Nutritional value will be evaluated by measuring protein and lipid levels and on bee longevity. The chemical composition of pollens that are more nutritious than MegaBee will be determined. 2. Determine the effects of high fructose corn syrup containing higher saccharides on honey bee longevity. 3. Determine the effects of improved nutrition of the longevity of bees parasitized by Varroa, the reproductive potential of queens, and foraging activity of colonies used for pollination. REPLACING 5342-21000-014-00D (8/08). FY09 Program Increase $270,000. FY10 Program Increase $315,000.


3.Progress Report
We investigated the diversity of symbiotic microbes in the honey stomach and the stored pollen in honey bee colonies. Thirteen unique Lactobacillus species in the honey stomachs of worker bees have been isolated by our collaborators. These bacteria are used to inoculate the stored pollen and begin the fermentation process that converts the pollen to bee bread. The bees feed on the bee bread and use it to produce the brood food they use to raise larvae. We are in the process of sequencing the DNA from the Lactobacillus to determine gene function that plays a role in the processing and digestion of pollen. We have determined that bee bread differs in protein concentration and amino acid content from the pollens used to create it. We also are examining the effects of antibiotics, fungicide contamination in pollen, and feeding bees high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) on the presence and diversity of Lactobacillus and other symbiotic microbes and the consequences on worker protein levels, longevity, immune response and nutritional composition bee bread and brood food. We examined the effects of supplemental carbohydrate feeds of worker longevity and colony growth. Worker bees lived an average of six days longer when fed sucrose syrup than those fed HFCS in laboratory bioassays. Results were similar regardless of manufacturer, formulation (HFCS55 or HFCS42), or dilution. We also fed colonies HFCS or sucrose in an enclosed flight area to test for effects on colony growth. Colonies fed sucrose built significantly more honeycomb and trended towards greater food storage than those fed HFCS. In a separate study, colonies supplemented through the winter and spring with sucrose had increased brood production and slightly higher bee populations than those fed HFCS. HFCS does not appear to have an acute toxic affect upon bee colonies, and does sustain them when it is provided as an exclusive or supplemental carbohydrate source. However, if beekeepers want to increase brood production they should not feed HFCS as the sole carbohydrate source.  


4.Accomplishments
1. Commercialization of a Varroa mite treatment. Varroa mites are an external parasite of honey bees and the major cause of colony losses throughout the U.S. A formulation using plant acids was created by ARS scientists in Tucson, AZ, that is highly effective in reducing Varroa populations in colonies. The plant acids are food grade compounds and are on the GRAS list. The product does not cause mortality in either adults or immature life stages nor does it disrupt queen egg laying or colony growth. The delivery system causes bees throughout the colony to have levels of product that results in Varroa mortality in <48hrs. The product does not accumulate in the wax comb and was not found in honey samples in most cases. When the product was found in honey, it was in very low amounts (< 100 ppb). The product was developed under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement and is in commercial production under the name HopGuard.


Review Publications
Hoffman, G.D., Chen, Y., Huang, E., Huang, M.H. 2010. The effect of diet on protein concentration, hypopharyngeal gland development and virus load in worker honey bees (Apis mellifera L.). Journal of Insect Physiology, 56:1184-1191. doi:10.1016/j.jinsphys.2010.03.017

Leblanc, B.W., Eggleston, G., Sammataro, D., Cornett, C., Dufault, R., Deeby, T.A., St Cyr, E.L. 2009. Formation of Hydroxymethylfurfural in Domestic High Fructose Corn Syrup and Its Toxicity to the Honey Bee (Apis mellifera). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 57:7369-7376.

Ruiz-Matute, A.I., Weiss, M., Sammataro, D., Finley, J.V., Sanz, M.L. 2010. Carbohydrate composition of high fructose corn syrups (HFCS) used for bee feeding. Effect on honey composition.. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 58:7317-7322.

Last Modified: 8/22/2014
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