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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Poplarville, Mississippi » Southern Horticultural Research Unit » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #348292

Title: Hydroxymethylfurfural Affects Caged Honey Bees (Apis mellifera carnica)

item JURISIC, SNEZANA - University Of Maribor, Slovenia
item SKERL, MAJA SMODIS - Agricultural Institute Of Slovenia
item GREGORC, ALES - Mississippi State University
item Sampson, Blair

Submitted to: Diversity
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/28/2019
Publication Date: 12/31/2019
Citation: Jurisic, S., Skerl, M., Gregorc, A., Sampson, B.J. 2019. Hydroxymethylfurfural Affects Caged Honey Bees (Apis mellifera carnica). Diversity Magazine. 12(1).

Interpretive Summary: Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) is a toxic breakdown product found in spoiling honey. HMF in hive honey can sicken bees and reduce their lifespan. Our experiments investigated the effects of HMF on honey bee longevity, on a bee disease (Nosema), and the integrity of the bee digestive system (the midgut). HMF quanity did not increase the number of disease (Nosema) spores in host bees. It took about 15 days of feeding on HMF-contaminated food for midgut cells and ultimately honey bees themselves to begin dying in greater numbers. HMF production in honey is an important co-morbity factor that, if unchecked, could contribute significantly to honey bee losses.

Technical Abstract: A high concentration of hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) (e.g. 15 mg HMF per kg honey) indicates quality deterioration for a wide range of foods. In honey bee colonies, HMF in honey stores can negatively affect bee health and survival. Therefore, in the laboratory, we experimentally determined the effects of HMF on the longevity of worker honey bees and the integrity of their midgut by feeding them standard diets containing five concentrations of HMF (0, 100, 500, 1000 and 1500 ppm). Simultaneously, we also tested to see if bees rejected HMF contaminated diet, and also, HMF’s effect on the appearance of Nosema spp. spores in infected honey bees. We performed immunohistochemical analysis of bee midguts to determine possible changes at the cellular level. No correlation was established between HMF concentration and Nosema spore counts. Negative effects of HMF on bees were not observed in the first 15 days of exposure. From 15 to 30 days of exposure, however, HMF caused midgut cells to die and increased mortality of honey bee workers across treatment groups.