The study is published in the journal Insects. The Honey bees are of great economic importance, not only for honey production but also for crop pollination. However, honey bee populations continue to decline mainly due to exposure to pesticides, pathogens and beekeeping practices. In this study, total soluble protein was measured, total RNA was extracted and first-strand cDNAs were generated. Quantitative PCR was used to assess the relative expression (transcript abundances) of immune function-related genes in honey bees collected from organically and conventionally managed hives. Honey bees collected from conventionally managed hives with 0% Varroa mite infestation levels displayed an upregulated expression of the prophenoloxidase gene (cellular defense). Similarly, honey bees collected from organically managed hives had increased levels of the vitellogenin gene (immune function and longevity). The gene expression for malvolio (sucrose responsiveness) was highest in organically managed hives with 0% Varroa mite infestations. Young adult bees collected from organically managed hives with 5% Varroa mite infestation levels had upregulated expressions of the gene spaetzle, whereas bees from similarly infested, conventionally managed hives did not, suggesting that honey bees from organically managed hives could mount an immune response. In young adult bees collected from organically managed hives only, the expression of the immune deficiency gene (antimicrobial defense) was upregulated. The relative gene expression for superoxide dismutase 1 increased in young adult bees collected from hives with 5% Varroa mite infestation levels as expected. However, for superoxide dismutase 2, there was a high level of gene expression in adult bees from both conventionally managed hives with 0% Varroa mite infestation levels and organically managed hives with 5% Varroa mite infestations. The gene CYP9Q3 (pesticide detoxification) that metabolizes coumaphos and fluvalinate was upregulated in adult bees collected from organically managed bees. Overall, these findings provide useful insights into the genetic response of honey bees to some environmental stressors and could be an important component of best beekeeping practices that intend to enhance honey bee health.
Shalom C. Siebert, Lambert H. B. Kanga, Sheikh M. Basha and Jesusa C. Legaspi