Publication details

Winter honey bee (Apis mellifera) populations show greater potential to induce immune responces than summer populations after immune stimuli



Year of publication 2022
Type Conference abstract
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Description In the temperate climates of central Europe and North America, two different honey bee (Apis mellifera) populations are commonly found in colonies: short-living summer bees and long-living winter bees. Besides the differences in their life span, each of these populations fulfils a different role within the colonies. For instance, summer bees emerge in spring and survive until summer, mainly foraging and providing nutrients for bee brood. Winter bees emerge in late August, and their primary role is overwintering and establishing a new generation of bees in the spring. Winter worker bees also have higher vitellogenin levels and more significant reserves of nutrients in their fat bodies than summer bees. The differences between the immune systems of both populations are well described at the constitutive level; however, our knowledge of its inducibility is still very limited. In this study, we focused on the immune response of 10-day-old honeybee workers triggered in vivo by injecting heat-killed bacteria. This study was focused on honey bees that emerged and lived under hive conditions and evaluated immune response by measuring the antimicrobial activity of hemolymph, determining the relative gene expression of antimicrobial peptide genes and vitellogenin, quantifying antimicrobial peptide apidaecin, and determining vitellogenin concentration. Responses to bacterial injections differed between summer and winter bees. Winter bees exhibited a more intense immune response, including higher expression of antimicrobial genes and antimicrobial activity, as well as a significant decrease in vitellogenin gene expression and its concentration in the hemolymph. The observed intense immune response in winter honeybees may contribute to understanding the relationships between colony fitness and infection with pathogens and its association with successful overwintering.

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