Lipidomic features of honey bee and colony health during limited supplementary feeding

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Honey bee nutritional health depends on nectar and pollen, which provide the main source of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids to individual bees. During malnutrition, insect metabolism accesses fat body reserves. However, this process in bees and its repercussions at the colony level are poorly understood. Using untargeted lipidomics and gene expression analysis, we examined the effects of different feeding treatments (starvation, sugar feeding and sugar + pollen feeding) on bees and correlated them with colony health indicators. We found that nutritional stress led to an increase in unsaturated triacylglycerols and diacylglycerols, as well as a decrease in free fatty acids in the bee fat body. Here, we hypothesise that stored lipids are made available through a process where unsaturations change lipid's structure. Increased gene expression of three lipid desaturases in response to malnutrition supports this hypothesis, as these desaturases may be involved in releasing fatty acyl chains for lipolysis. Although nutritional stress was evident in starving and sugar-fed bees at the colony and physiological level, only starved colonies presented long-term effects in honey production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)658-675
Number of pages18
JournalInsect Molecular Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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