Honey bee foragers balance colony nutritional deficiencies
- 967 Downloads
Honey bee colonies, foraging predominantly on a single pollen source, may encounter nutritional deficits. In the present study, we examined the nutritional resilience of honey bee colonies, testing whether foragers shift their foraging effort towards resources that complement a nutritional deficit. Eight honey bee colonies were kept in screened enclosures and fed for 1 week a pollen substitute diet deficient in a particular essential amino acid. Foragers were subsequently tested for a preference between the same diet previously fed, a different diet that was similarly deficient, or a diet that complemented the deficiency. Foragers preferred the complementary diet over the same or similar diets. Appetitive conditioning tests showed that bees were able to discriminate also between the same and similar diets. Overall, our results support the hypothesis that honey bees prefer dietary diversity, and that they do not just include novel sources but specifically target nutritionally complementary ones. Whereas we specifically focused on deficiencies in essential amino acids, we cannot rule out that bees were also complementing correlated imbalances in other nutrients, most notably essential fatty acids. The ability of honey bees to counter deficient nutrition contributes to the mechanisms which social insects use to sustain homeostasis at the colony level.
KeywordsApis mellifera Choice Essential amino acids PER Nutrient balancing Social insects
This work was funded jointly by a grant from the BBSRC, NERC, the Wellcome Trust, Defra, and the Scottish Government under the Insect Pollinators Initiative (grant no: BB/I000968/1), and with partial support from the Orion Foundation. We thank Tania Masci, Karmi Oxman, and Haim Kalev for their valuable contribution to the work at the apiary and the laboratory.
Compliance with ethical standards
All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
- Abisgold JD, Simpson SJ (1987) The physiology of compensation by locusts for changes in dietary-protein. J Exp Biol 129:329–346Google Scholar
- Arien Y, Dag A, Zarchin S, Masci T, Shafir S (2015) Omega-3 deficiency impairs honey bee learning. PNAS 112:15761–15766Google Scholar
- De Groot AP (1953) Protein and amino acid requirements of the honeybee (Apis mellifica L). Dissertation, University of UtrechtGoogle Scholar
- Inouye DW, Waller GD (1984) Responses of honey bees (Apis mellifera) to amino acid solutions mimicking floral nectars. Ecology 65:618–625Google Scholar
- Pernal (2000) The influence of pollen quality and pollen-based cues on the nutrition and foraging behavior of honey bees, Apis mellifera L Dissertation, University of ManitobaGoogle Scholar
- Ricketts TH, Regetz J, Steffan-Dewenter I, Cunningham SA, Kremen C, Bogdanski A, Gemmill-Herren B, Greenleaf SS, Klein AM, Mayfield MM, Morandin LA, Ochieng A, Viana BF (2008) Landscape effects on crop pollination services: are there general patterns? Ecol Lett 11:499–515CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Schmidt JO (1984) Feeding preference of Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera: Apidae): individual versus mixed pollen species. J Kansas Entomol Soc 57:323–327Google Scholar
- Seeley TD (1995) The wisdom of the hive: the social physiology of honey bee colonies. Harvard Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Simpson SJ, Raubenheimer D (2012) The nature of nutrition: a unifying framework from animal adaptation to human obesity. Princeton University PressGoogle Scholar
- Simpson SJ, Simpson CL (1992) Mechanisms controlling modulation by heamolymph amino acids of gustatory responsiveness in the locust. J Exp Biol 168:269–286Google Scholar
- Simpson CL, Simpson SJ, Abisgold JD (1990) The role of various amino acids in the protein compensatory response of Locusta migratoria. Symp Biol Hungar 39:39–46Google Scholar
- USDA (2014) United States Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 23 nutrient data laboratory home page. http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl