Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Bee Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #342150

Research Project: Managing Honey Bees against Disease and Colony Stress

Location: Bee Research Laboratory

Title: Nectar and pollen phytochemicals stimulate honey bee immunity to viral infection

Author
item Palmer-young, Evan - University Of Massachusetts
item Schwarz, Ryan - Fort Lewis College
item Tozkar, Cansu - Yuzuncu Yil Centennial University
item Chen, Yanping - Judy
item Irwin, Rebecca - North Carolina State University
item Adler, Lynn - University Of Massachusetts
item Evans, Jay

Submitted to: Journal of Economic Entomology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/6/2017
Publication Date: 7/21/2017
Citation: Palmer-Young, E., Schwarz, R.S., Tozkar, C.O., Chen, Y., Irwin, R.E., Adler, L.S., Evans, J.D. 2017. Nectar and pollen phytochemicals stimulate honey bee immunity to viral infection. Journal of Economic Entomology. 110(5): 1959–1972. https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/tox193.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/tox193

Interpretive Summary: Honey bees face serious challenges from pathogens and parasites. Natural compounds from plants might help reduce parasite levels, leading to improved health of colony members and better colony survival. Here we sceened a diverse set of chemicals found naturally in plant nectars to determine their impacts on viruses and gut parasites carried by honey bees. The results suggest promising directions for identifying nectar compounds with beneficial effects on honey bees and indicate particular plant species whose nectar might benefit bee health. These results can be used to help refine a new set of disease treatments for honey bees.

Technical Abstract: Parasites and pathogens are implicated in honey bee colony losses, and honey bees may also spread infection to wild pollinators. Bees consume pollen and nectar, which contain phytochemicals that can positively or negatively affect pollinator health. Certain phytochemicals can reduce parasite loads in humans and other animals. We fed honey bees seven dietary phytochemicals to evaluate their impacts on disease levels in both mature and newly emerging bees. Phytochemicals were generally well tolerated at levels documented in nectar, honey, and pollen, although clove oil and thymol increased mortality at higher doses. Six of seven compunds increased antimicrobial peptide expression and short term phyotchemical consumption reduced Deformed wing virus loads up to 500-fold. Our results suggest that phytochemicals have potential therapeutic value for honey bees infected with Deformed wing virus at levels found in natural nectars. Thus, flowers might serve as seasonally varied, serially consumed pollinator medicines.