Effect of diet lipids and omega-6:3 ratio on honey bee brood development, adult survival and body composition

Yael Arien, Arnon Dag, Shiran Yona, Zipora Tietel, Taly Lapidot Cohen, Sharoni Shafir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Lipids have a key role in a variety of physiological functions in insects including energy, reproduction, growth and development. Whereas most of the required fatty acids can be synthesized endogenously, omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are essential fatty acids that must be acquired through nutrition. Honey bees (Apis mellifera) obtain lipids from pollen, but different pollens vary in nutritional composition, including of PUFAs. Low floral diversity and abundance may expose bees to nutritional stress. We tested the effect of total lipids concentration and their omega-6:3 ratio on aspects of honey bee physiology: brood development, adult longevity and body fatty acids composition. All three parameters were affected by dietary lipid concentration and omega-6:3 ratio. Higher lipid concentration in diet increased brood production, and high omega-6:3 ratio increased mortality rate and decreased brood rearing. Fatty acid analysis of the bees showed that the amount of lipids and the omega-6:3 ratio in their body generally reflected the composition of the diet on which they fed. Consistent with previous findings of the importance of a balanced omega-6:3 ratio diet for learning performance, we found that such a balanced PUFA diet, with above threshold total lipid composition, is also necessary for maintaining proper colony development.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number104074
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
StatePublished - Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Haim Kalev for beekeeping and field assistance, and Ira Treidel and Meray Kadee for laboratory assistance. The bee image in the on-line graphical abstract is credit of Domonique Juleon. This work was supported by a BBSRC grant ( BB/P007449/1 ), Vatat Nechamia Levtzion fellowship to YA, B. Triwaks Bee Research Center funds, and a generous donation in memory of Elliot and Florence Eichler.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • Brood development
  • Essential fatty acids
  • Honeybee
  • Lipids
  • Longevity
  • Omega-6:3 ratio


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