, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 116–128 | Cite as

Measuring the sugar consumption of larvae in bumblebee micro-colonies: a promising new method for tracking food economics in bees

  • Ivan Řehoř
  • Lenka Macháčková
  • Alena Bučánková
  • Stanislava Matějková
  • Kateřina Černá
  • Jakub StrakaEmail author
Original article


The consumption of sugar is an important part of the energy intake of social insect. Its monitoring provides information regarding the costs and efficiency of energy flow in a colony. This study aims at tracking the sugar flow from a sugar source to artificial bumblebee micro-colonies and at quantifying the amount of sugar consumed by the larvae. We developed a new method of sugar tracking that utilises an inert lanthanide complex (GdDOTA) dissolved in an aqueous sugar solution. The delayed defecation of bee larvae enabled the collection of all faeces from a cocoon. The amount of digested sugar corresponded to the amount of the lanthanide in the faeces, which was quantified using inductively coupled plasma spectrometric techniques. We highlight the possibility of the novel developed method to be extended for tracking the energy flow within a colony using up to 15 different metal markers without the necessity of killing individuals.


marking technique lanthanide carbohydrate insect ICP-OES 



We thank Jiřina Száková (University of Life Sciences, Prague) and Jan Rohovec (Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic) for preliminary measurements of the data and Jan Votava for help with statistical analysis. This project was supported by the Czech Science Foundation, project no. P506/10/0403 and project no. TA01020969 of the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic. Support to K.Č. was given by the SVV project (Integrative Animal Biology) no. SVV-2013-267 201.

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Copyright information

© INRA, DIB and Springer-Verlag France 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivan Řehoř
    • 1
  • Lenka Macháčková
    • 2
  • Alena Bučánková
    • 3
  • Stanislava Matějková
    • 1
  • Kateřina Černá
    • 2
  • Jakub Straka
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry, v.v.i.Academy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicPragueCzech Republic
  2. 2.Faculty of Science, Department of ZoologyCharles University in PraguePragueCzech Republic
  3. 3.Agricultural Research, LtdTroubskoCzech Republic

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