The Cocktail Queen Bees Use To Disease-Proof Their Babies

Healthy Pets  BY Dr. Becker September 29, 2015

Honeybees are amazing creatures of the insect world, helping to pollinate 87 of the top 115 food crops. Bees transfer pollen from plant to plant, which allows the plants to make seeds and reproduce. Without bees, many of the foods we love – from citrus fruits and broccoli to almonds and cantaloupe – would cease to exist. Not to mention raw honey…

Yet, their impressive contribution to the world's food supply is only oneof their many points of intrigue. If you could peek inside a honeybee hive, you'd see a highly organized society with each bee taking on a very specific role for the overall good of the hive.

The queen bee (there is only one per hive) also has the important job of transferring immunity to all of her babies, and a new study uncovered just how this remarkable feat is accomplished.

How Queen Bees 'Vaccinate' Their Babies 

Research published in PLOS Pathogens found that queen bees inoculate all of their young via a process that begins with eating.1 The queen bee spends most of her life inside the hive, being brought meals by worker bees.

She eats a substance known as royal jelly, which is created by digested pollen and nectar the worker bees gather each day. But with the pollen and nectar, the queen also receives exposure to bacteria and pathogens in the worker bees' environment.

When the queen bee ingests this mixture, she digests the bacteria and stores them in an organ similar to the liver (called the "fat body"). The bacteria are then bound to a protein called vitellogenin and carried via the bloodstream to developing eggs. The babies are therefore inoculated before they're born and enter the world already immune to diseases present in their environment.2

The researchers are hopeful their discovery may help them provide protection to bees against diseases known to destroy hives. They hope to replicate the natural process using a "cocktail the bees would eat." Study co-author Gro Amdam of Arizona State University told Discovery News:3

"Because this vaccination process is naturally occurring, this process would be cheap and ultimately simple to implement. It has the potential to both improve and secure food production for humans."

Unfortunately, bees aren't only under attack from bacteria and viruses but also from human activities, including pesticide use. Discovery News further reported:4

"During the past six decades alone, managed honeybee colonies in the United States have declined from 6 million in 1947 to only 2.5 million today."

The Fascinating Caste System In A Beehive

The queen bee represents just one member of the hive, which may number close to 80,000 depending on the season. Worker bees represent the bulk of the hive, and they are all female (although they're sexually immature and not able to reproduce).

While the queen bee may live for several years, a worker bee lives for about six weeks in the summer or up to nine months in the winter. Each takes on a series of "chores" in its lifetime. According to the Backyard Beekeepers Association:5

"The worker bees sequentially take on a series of specific chores during their lifetime: housekeeper; nursemaid; construction worker; grocer; undertaker; guard; and finally, after 21 days they become a forager collecting pollen and nectar.

For worker bees, it takes 21 days from egg to emergence. The worker bee has a barbed stinger that results in her death following stinging, therefore, she can only sting once."

Each hive also has 300 to 3,000 drone bees, which are male bees kept for the purpose of mating with the queen. She only mates once (with several drone bees) and then is fertile for life, laying up to 2,000 eggs per day. If the queen bee dies, the worker bees will choose a new young female to take her place, raising her by feeding her royal jelly. National Geographic reported:6

"This elixir enables the worker to develop into a fertile queen. Queens also regulate the hive's activities by producing chemicals that guide the behavior of the other bees."

While the male drone bees have no stinger, they have a barbed sex organ and will die after mating. The male bees are also expelled from the hive in the autumn, as they're only needed for mating during the summer.7

Honeybees Are At Risk, Here's How You Can Help

Since 2006, US beekeepers have lost a striking 29.6 percent of their honeybee colonies annually due to a disease dubbed colony collapse disorder (CCD). The condition causes bees to become disoriented, leaving their hives, and never returning.

Hives across the country have been decimated, and while there's still no definitive cause, pesticides, viruses, mites, fungi, and antibiotics may play a role.

The widespread use of neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides, appears to be particularly damaging to bees, and last year a Harvard study concluded,"Neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering CCD" in previously healthy honeybee hives.

It's also been suggested that CCD may weaken bees' immunity, leaving them vulnerable to other infections or parasites. If you'd like to help bees in your area, consider planting a bee-friendly garden. The Honeybee Conservancy recommends:8

  • Replacing part of your lawn with flowering plants
     
  • Selecting single flower tops, such as daisies and marigolds, which produce more nectar and are easier to access than double flower tops (such as double impatiens
  • Planting at least three different types of flowers so you have a longer bloom time. For instance:

    Crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula, and wild lilac for spring blooms.
    Bee balm, cosmos, echinacea, snapdragons, foxglove, and hosta for the summer.
    Zinnias, sedum, asters, witch hazel, and goldenrod are late bloomers for fall.

    Read at: http://goo.gl/8mUvvi

Queen Bee Microbiomes Differ From Those of Worker Bees

 DigitalJournal.com/Science   By Sravanth Verma     March 14, 2015 

Researchers from the University of Indiana have published the very first comprehensive analysis of queen honey bee gut bacteria, and have reported that these defer markedly from those of worker bees.

 

The gut bacteria (gut microbiomes) are generally transmitted through the maternal line, in contrast with the findings of the honey bee (Apis mellifera). Study co-author Irene L.G. Newton, also an assistant professor of biology at the University of Indiana said, “In the case of the honey bee, we found that the microbiome in queen bees did not reflect those of worker bees — not even the progeny of the queen or her attendants. In fact, queen bees lack many of the bacterial groups that are considered to be core to worker microbiomes.”

Unlike most other mammals, including human beings, honey bees' gut bacteria transmission takes place through the insect's environment and social context, which is referred to as horizontal transmission. Thus, the striking differences between queen bee and worker bee diet and environment are reflected in the microbiome. Queens usually consume protein-laden royal jelly and have very limited exposure to the outside world and the rest of the comb, besides her nest. Workers by contrast feed on “bee bread” and travel about quite a bit.

“In some ways, the development of the queen microbiome mirrors that of workers, with larval queens’ associated bacteria resembling those found in worker larvae,” Newton said. “But, by the time they mature, queens have developed a microbial signature distinct from the rest of the colony.”

Honey production and bee-keeping is a multi-million dollar business thanks to the many uses and benefits of honey. Bee keepers sometimes remove a queen bee and transfer them to new hives. Based on this study, such practices may not have a detrimental effect on colony health.

“Because the queen microbiome does not reflect the workers within a specific colony, the physical movement of queens from one colony environment to another does not seem to have any major effects on either the queen gut or worker gut communities,” Newton said.

The study titled "Characterization of the honey bee microbiome throughout the queen-rearing process" was published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, in February 2015.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/science/queen-bee-microbiomes-differ-from-those-of-worker-bees/article/428288#ixzz3V91zcwuS

The Environment May Change, but the Microbiome of Queen Bees Does Not

North Carolina State University    By Dr. David Tarpy, Matt Shipman   March 2, 2015

The Queen Bee is marked by a green dot. (Credit: David Tarpy)Researchers from North Carolina State University, Indiana University and Wellesley College have characterized the gut microbiome of honey bee queens. This is the first thorough census of the gut microbiome – which consists of all the microorganisms that live in the gut of the organism – in queen bees.

“We found that the microbiome changes as the queen matures, but the microbiomes of different queens are very similar – regardless of the environment each queen is in,” says Dr. David Tarpy, a professor of entomology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the work.

The research evaluated the gut fauna found in honey bee (Apis mellifera) queens at every point in their development, from the larval stage through their emergence as adults capable of reproduction. The researchers also assessed the gut microbiome of worker bees in each queen’s colony to see if there was any relationship between the microbiome of the workers and the microbiome of the queens. The study found that a queen’s microbiome does not change when placed in a new colony – and the colony’s microbiome doesn’t change either.

“There are large, commercial operations that produce thousands of queens each year for sale to professional and amateur beekeepers,” Tarpy says. “Up until now, nobody has really asked whether a queen’s microbiome changes when the queen is introduced into a new environment.

“It doesn’t – and that’s a good thing. Our findings tell us that beekeepers who replace their queens aren’t disrupting the microbiome of either the queen or the colony.”

The finding also opens the door to new areas of study – such as whether a queen’s microbiome could be manipulated to improve her health or reproductive success.

“Now that we know placing a queen in a new colony doesn’t change her microbiome, it makes sense to see if there is anything we can do to the microbiome to improve the queen’s chances of success,” says Dr. Heather Mattila, Knafel Assistant Professor of Natural Sciences at Wellesley College and a co-author of the paper.

The paper, “Characterization of the Honey Bee Microbiome Throughout the Queen-Rearing Process,” is published online in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The paper was also co-authored by Dr. Irene Newton of Indiana. The research was supported by a grant from the National Honey Board.

Read more: https://news.ncsu.edu/2015/03/tarpy-microbiome-2015/

Queen & Disease Clinic

NC State University - Entomology "Queen & Disease Clinic"

If knowledge is power, then one of the most effective tools in the beekeeper’s arsenal is to know the health and productivity of their bees. However, many important factors to colony health cannot be easily quantified without sophistocated techniques. The NC State Queen & Disease Clinic is now offering a wide range of analytical tools to quantify queen reproductive quality as well as queen and colony health.

Queen

The reproductive quality of queens, and the drones with which they mate, has been among the top management concerns of beekeepers for the last decade. Being able to verify cohorts of queens for their mating success, identify failing queens, or diagnosing laying problems are all helpful for successful beekeeper management. Moreover, testing queens for infection (Nosema and viruses) can also be important for improving genetic stock, since it is known that these diseases can affect queen and colony performance.


GenotypingTesting colonies for diseases and genetics is equally important. We can measure virus levels within colonies and compare them to baseline data to determine potential deviations that affect colony health. The importance of Africanized bees is also an ever-increasing threat, particularly on the Eastern seaboard, so a diagnostic genetic test is the standard means of determining Africanization. Finally, intracolony genetic diversity is important for many aspects of colony function, thus our high-throughput process of calculating effective paternity frequency of the queen (=mating number) can be useful for both the beekeeper and honey bee scientists.

Queens (or drones)

PROCESS [PER SAMPLE BASIS]
5-10
11-20
21-40
>40
Insemination quality (includes morphometric analysis, sperm viability, and total sperm count) $20.64 $18.84 $16.33 $15.17
Nosema analysis (includes morphometric analysis, Nosema species identification, and detected presence/absence) $227.47 $208.70 $183.57 $170.67
Viral analysis (includes morphometric analysis plus presenece/absence and relative levels of ABPV, BQCV, CBPV, DWV, IAPV, KBV, and SBV) $155.27 $112.39 $82.25 $71.83

Colonies (~100 workers each)

PROCESS [PER SAMPLE BASIS]
5-10
11-20
21-40
>40
Nosema analysis (includes Nosema species identification, and detected presence/absence) $227.47 $208.70 $183.57 $170.67
Mitotyping for Africanization (includes genetic analysis of maternal ancestory as African or European) $129.06 $110.29 $93.89 $86.55
Viral analysis (includes presenece/absence and relative levels of ABPV, BQCV, CBPV, DWV, IAPV, KBV, and SBV)
$155.27 $112.39 $82.25 $71.83
Genotyping analysis (includes a full assessment of paternity for 48 workers and estimate of queen mating frequency) $285.20 $242.26 $206.58 $189.28


How to arrange and ship your samples

To request a quote for any of the above services, please email us directly.Because of processing and time constraints, there is a minimum of 5 queens or colonies per order. We will then generate and email you an invoice for the requested services. Remit by check made out to “NC State University” to schedule a delivery date, or pay by credit card using our online payment system.Nexcelom

Once a date is arranged to send samples, all bees must be mailed while alive unless otherwise indicated. Overnight delivery should be made to the shipping address outlined on the invoice. No samples will be processed until payment is received.

Processing time depends on the type and number of analyses, as well as the number of samples to be measured. However, our high-throughput processing procedure typically results in sending a report within 1-2 weeks of receiving the samples.

Example Queen Bee Clinic Reports:

Reports of all analyses are summarized into a simple format that provides relative measures. This places the findings into context and makes it much easier for fast and reliable interpretation.

Scanned image of example Queen Bee Clinic Report

 Contact Queen & Disease Clinic: http://entomology.ces.ncsu.edu/apiculture/queen-disease-clinic/

The 13 Bugs of Christmas

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey

It's time to revisit "The 13 Bugs of Christmas."

You've heard "The 12 Days of Christmas," beginning with a single "partridge in a pear tree" and ending with "12 drummers drumming." In between: two turtle doves, three french hens, four calling birds, five gold rings, six geese-a-laying, seven swans-a-swimming, eight maids-a-milking, nine ladies dancing, 10 lords-a-leaping, and 11 pipers piping.

But have you heard "The 13 Bugs of Christmas?"

Back in 2010,...

Read More...

Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at: http://ucanr.org/blogs/bugsquad/