2021 journal article
Colony-level pesticide exposure affects honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) royal jelly production and nutritional composition
Honey bees provision glandular secretions in the form of royal jelly as larval nourishment to developing queens. Exposure to chemicals and nutritional conditions can influence queen development and thus impact colony fitness. Previous research reports that royal jelly remains pesticide-free during colony-level exposure and that chemical residues are buffered by the nurse bees. However, the impacts of pesticides can also manifest in quality and quantity of royal jelly produced by nurse bees. Here, we tested how colony exposure to a multi-pesticide pollen treatment influences the amount of royal jelly provisioned per queen and the additional impacts on royal jelly nutritional quality. We observed differences in the metabolome, proteome, and phytosterol compositions of royal jelly synthesized by nurse bees from multi-pesticide exposed colonies, including significant reductions of key nutrients such as 24-methylenecholesterol, major royal jelly proteins, and 10-hydroxy-2-decenoic acid. Additionally, quantity of royal jelly provisioned per queen was lower in colonies exposed to pesticides, but this effect was colony-dependent. Pesticide treatment had a greater impact on royal jelly nutritional composition than the weight of royal jelly provisioned per queen cell. These novel findings highlight the indirect effects of pesticide exposure on queen developmental nutrition and allude to social consequences of nurse bee glandular degeneration.