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Title: Carbohydrate nutrition associated with health of overwintering honey bees

In temperate climates, honey bees rely on stored carbohydrates to sustain them throughout the winter. In nature, honey serves as the bees’ source of carbohydrates, but when managed, beekeepers often harvest honey and replace it with cheaper, artificial feed. The effects of alternative carbohydrate sources on colony survival, strength, and individual bee metabolic health are poorly understood. We assessed the impacts of carbohydrate diets (honey, sucrose syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, and invert syrup) on colony winter survival, population size, and worker bee nutritional state (i.e., fat content and gene expression of overwintered bees and emerging callow bees). We observed a nonsignificant trend for greater survival and larger adult population size among colonies overwintered on honey compared to the artificial feeds, with colonies fed high-fructose corn syrup performing particularly poorly. These trends were mirrored in individual bee physiology, with bees from colonies fed honey having significantly larger fat bodies than those from colonies fed high-fructose corn syrup. For bees fed honey or sucrose, we also observed gene expression profiles consistent with a higher nutritional state, associated with physiologically younger individuals. That is, there was significantly higher expression of vitellogenin and insulin-like peptide 2 and lower expression of insulin-like peptide 1 and juvenile hormone acid methyltransferase in the brains of bees that consumed honey or sucrose syrup relative to those that consumed invert syrup or high-fructose corn syrup. These findings further our understanding of the physiological implications of carbohydrate nutrition in honey bees and have applied implications for colony management.

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Oxford University Press
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Journal of Insect Science
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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