Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Insect Molecular Biology




School of Science




Cooperative Research Centre for Honey Bee Products (CRCHBP; Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources) /Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology infrastructure grant / University of Western Australia / CONACyT-México for Doctoral Studies / Open access publishing facilitated by The University of Western Australia, as part of the Wiley - The University of Western Australia agreement via the Council of Australian University Librarians

Grant Number

ARC Number : CE140100008

Grant Link


Castaños, C. E., Boyce, M. C., Bates, T., Miller, A. H., Flematti, G., Lawler, N. G., & Grassl, J. (2023). Lipidomic features of honey bee and colony health during limited supplementary feeding. Insect Molecular Biology, 32(6), 658-675.


Honey bee nutritional health depends on nectar and pollen, which provide the main source of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids to individual bees. During malnutrition, insect metabolism accesses fat body reserves. However, this process in bees and its repercussions at the colony level are poorly understood. Using untargeted lipidomics and gene expression analysis, we examined the effects of different feeding treatments (starvation, sugar feeding and sugar + pollen feeding) on bees and correlated them with colony health indicators. We found that nutritional stress led to an increase in unsaturated triacylglycerols and diacylglycerols, as well as a decrease in free fatty acids in the bee fat body. Here, we hypothesise that stored lipids are made available through a process where unsaturations change lipid's structure. Increased gene expression of three lipid desaturases in response to malnutrition supports this hypothesis, as these desaturases may be involved in releasing fatty acyl chains for lipolysis. Although nutritional stress was evident in starving and sugar-fed bees at the colony and physiological level, only starved colonies presented long-term effects in honey production.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.