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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Tucson, Arizona » Honey Bee Research » Research » Research Project #414401


Location: Honey Bee Research

2009 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.

3. Progress Report
We conducted a study to determine population growth in colonies fed exclusively on our protein supplement diet. The colonies thrived for approximately 6 weeks, and then brood rearing stopped and workers were in the process of superseding the queen. After confirming that the cause of the colony decline was not disease related, we tested whether adding frames of stored pollen (i.e., bee bread) could cause a resumption of brood rearing and halt the supersedure behaviors. Bees do not store protein supplement diets, thus there was no medium for the bees to grow the symbiotic microbes they need for food processing and storage. Adding the frames of bee bread caused brood rearing and colony growth to resume. These results have led us to investigate the role of symbiotic microbes in food processing in honey bee colonies, and how factors such as environmental contamination and antibiotics might affect the growth and diversity f these microbes. Our analyses of the nutritional value of pollen will be conducted on bee bread rather than the pollen itself. An analysis of saccharides in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) revealed that in addition to glucose and fructose there also was maltose, palatinose and isomaltose. Some of the disaccharides we detected are probably from the incomplete hydrolysis of starch during HFCS production or from transglucosylation reactions.  However, identification of all these carbohydrates could not be carried out due to the absence of commercial standards.  Difructose anhydrides (DFAs) were detected in HFCS for the first time and are pseudodisaccharides. The presence of these saccharides in addition to other compounds might be affecting longevity of adult worker bees. Feeding studies with HFCS were conducted at both the small cage and the colony level. The HFCS used in our trials had levels of hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) well below those previously described as toxic to honey bees.  When HFCS was supplied to day-old bees maintained in cages, the mean lifespan was 16 days regardless of the HFCS source, formulation (HFCS55 or HFCS42), or dilution; the mean lifespan for bees on sucrose was 28 days.  In the field trials, colony founding success was measured between package bees installed in a closed arena and supplied exclusively with HFCS or sucrose. Those colonies fed sucrose built significantly more honeycomb and trended towards greater food storage than those supplied with HFCS.  When colonies were supplemented through the winter and spring with either HFCS or sucrose, there was a trend towards greater brood production in colonies supplied with sucrose compared with those fed HFCS.  

4. Accomplishments
1. The effects of high fructose corn syrup on honey bees. Beekeepers feed enormous amounts of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to bees as a carbohydrate supplement. ARS scientists in Tucson, AZ, conducted studies to identify possible contaminants that might be present in HFCS and the effects on worker honey bee longevity. Worker longevity is a critical component of colony growth and over-wintering survival. HFCS contains saccharides and if exposed to high temperatures, hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). Feeding HFCS to bees shortened their lives and compromised comb building. Since feeding HFCS to bees can have detrimental effects on colony growth and might contribute to colony losses, this research provides essential information for maintaining a healthy colony.

2. Protein supplement is comparable to feeding pollen. Alternative resources of food are needed by bee colonies when pollen is not available. Protein supplement is comparable to feeding pollen and beekeepers feed protein supplements to colonies during times when flowering plants are unavailable. Whether the supplements are as nutritious as pollen is not known. ARS scientists in Tuscan, AZ compared the concentration of protein in worker bees as they aged, the development of hypopharyngeal glands, which produce brood food, and immune response among bees fed the either pollen or the protein supplement diet (MegaBee) formulated at Carl Hayden Bee Research Center. Our diet generated comparable results to pollen and significantly greater protein concentrations, hypopharyngeal gland development and immune response than in bees fed only sugar syrup. The supplement is a comparable substitute to pollen and can sustain colony growth and health during intervals when pollen is unavailable.

Review Publications
Huang, M.H., Hoffman, G.D., Le Blanc, B.W. 2009. Comparisons of the queen volatile compounds of instrumentally inseminated versus naturally mated honey bee (Apis mellifera) queens. Apidologie 40:464-471.

Hoffman, G.D., Lucas, T., Gronenberg, W., Caseman, D.L. 2008. Brains and brain components in African and European honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) - a volumetric comparison. Journal of Apicultural Research 47:281-285.

Sammataro, D., Finley, J.V., Leblanc, B.W., Wardell, G., Ahumada-Segura, F., Carroll, M.J. 2009. Feeding Essential Oils and 2-Heptanone in Sugar Syrup and Protein Diets to Honey Bees (Apis mellifera L.) as Potential Varroa Mite (Varroa destructor) Controls and Traced by SPME (Solid Phase Micro Extraction) Fibers. Journal of Apicultural Research 48(4):256-262.