Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Previously Published Works bannerUC San Diego

Effects of essential amino acid supplementation to promote honey bee gland and muscle development in cages and colonies


There is growing concern about the impact of poor nutrition on honey bee health. With caged bee experiments and whole-colony field experiments, we examined the effects of supplementing bees with essential amino acids (EAA), or a control treatment of nonessential amino acids (NAA). Caged bees fed EAA developed significantly greater head weights than controls, weights that were similar to nurse bees. Caged bees fed EAA developed significantly greater thorax weights than controls, weights that were similar to foragers. Higher head and thorax weights may respectively reflect increased glandular development in nurse bees and higher flight muscle mass in forager bees. In our field study, 29% of the pollen collected by our honey bee colonies came from eucalyptus trees. Amino acid analyses revealed no EAA deficiencies for the bee-collected polyfloral pollen or for monofloral eucalyptus pollen. Colonies fed 29 g EAA supplement may have slightly increased individual bee growth and brood rearing, but this effect was not significant. A clear colony result was a correlation between nurse bee physiology and brood development: 17% increase in nurse bee weight corresponded to 100% more capped brood cells (R2 = 0.38). We suggest that colony supplementation should target nurse bee nutrition. Nurse bees eventually become forager bees. Hence, increased glandular development may support colony brood development and greater flight muscle mass may assist colony foraging.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View