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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Tucson, Arizona » Carl Hayden Bee Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #352860

Title: Measuring hypopharyngeal gland acinus size in honey bee (Apis mellifera) nurse workers

item Corby-Harris, Vanessa
item Snyder, Lucy

Submitted to: Journal of Visualized Experiments
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/30/2018
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Honey bee nurse workers secrete the protein fraction of worker and royal jelly from structures in the head called hypopharyngeal glands. The size of these glands reflects nurse honey bee nutrition; they are large when nurses are fed pollen and are small when they are deprived of pollen. Measuring these glands can be difficult because it involves dissecting, imaging, and measuring small and sometimes fragile tissue that is difficult to see under the light microscope due to their almost clear or milky white color. Here, we provide a detailed protocol for dissecting, staining, imaging, and measuring nurse bee hypopharyngeal glands. The method we present provides researchers with an easier and more accurate way to visualize and measure these structures.

Technical Abstract: The nurse worker honey bee hypopharyngeal glands produce the protein fraction of worker and royal jelly fed to developing larvae and queens. These paired glands that are located in the head of the bee are highly sensitive to the quantity and quality of pollen and pollen substitutes that the nurse bee consumes. The glands get smaller when nurses are fed deficient diets and are large when they are fed complete diets. Because nurse hypopharyngeal gland size is a robust indicator of nurse nutrition, it is essential that those studying honey bee nutrition know how to measure these glands. Here, we provide detailed methods for dissecting, staining, imaging, and measuring nurse bee hypopharyngeal glands. We present comparisons of unstained and stained tissue and data that was used to study the impact of pollen on gland size. This method has been used to test how diet impacts hypopharyngeal gland size but may have further use as we learn more about these glands in the context of hive health and individual behavior.