2022 journal article
Drone honey bees are disproportionately sensitive to abiotic stressors despite expressing high levels of stress response proteins
COMMUNICATIONS BIOLOGY, 5(1).
Drone honey bees (Apis mellifera) are the obligate sexual partners of queens, and the availability of healthy, high-quality drones directly affects a queen's fertility and productivity. Yet, our understanding of how stressors affect adult drone fertility, survival, and physiology is presently limited. Here, we investigated sex biases in susceptibility to abiotic stressors (cold stress, topical imidacloprid exposure, and topical exposure to a realistic cocktail of pesticides). We found that drones (haploid males) were more sensitive to cold and imidacloprid exposure than workers (sterile, diploid females), but the cocktail was not toxic at the concentrations tested. We corroborated this lack of cocktail toxicity with in-hive exposures via pollen feeding. We then used quantitative proteomics to investigate protein expression profiles in the hemolymph of topically exposed workers and drones, and found that 34 proteins were differentially expressed in exposed drones relative to controls, but none were differentially expressed in exposed workers. Contrary to our hypothesis, we show that drones express surprisingly high baseline levels of putative stress response proteins relative to workers. This suggests that drones' stress tolerance systems are fundamentally rewired relative to workers, and susceptibility to stress depends on more than simply gene dose or allelic diversity.