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Following a proteinaceous diet in a honey bee colony

Anika Libor1

Pamela Pirker1

Karl Crailsheim1

1University of Graz

Department of Zoology

Universitaetsplatz 2

8010 Graz

A balanced nutrition is the key for the development of a strong and resistant honey bee colony. Pollen and nectar are the most commonly gathered products which provide honey bees with all the required essential nutrients. Seasonal changes or the increasing cultivation of monocultures can prevent honey bees from satisfying their nutritional demands by their own. But beekeeper can provide honey bee colonies with artificial diets to overcome nutritional shortages. In previous studies the main focus was set on the adequate nutrient content and most of all the impact of the diet on the physiology and the development of honey bees. But so far the question is still unanswered in which way an artificial pollen diet is distributed within a honey bee colony. It is still open whether an artificial fed diet is more likely to be stored in honey or pollen cells or if the diet is circulating among the members of a honey bee colony. Therefore we label a commercial pollen substitute with 14C polyethylene glycol (14C PEG) and offer this artificial diet to three honey bee colonies overnight. This experimental setup allows us to trace the artificial diet among worker bees and larvae and even in honey or pollen cells. In our study we recovered the main part of an introduced diet among the worker bees and only minor amounts can be found in larvae, honey or pollen cells. However we found that within twelve hours 82-98% of the bees and 71-77% of the larvae received shares of the radioactive labelled pollen substitute. Especially in larvae older than two days we found high activities of the 14C PEG. While we could trace the radioactive marker in 1to 3 % of the honey cells we only detected radioactive quantities lower than 1% in pollen cells. With our experiment we proofed that the main part of an offered diet is spread to the worker bees and to the larvae older than two days and only small amounts can be found in honey and pollen cells.

Karl Crailsheim

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