3 years ago

The honey bee (Apis mellifera L., 1758) and the seasonal adaptation of productions. Highlights on summer to winter transition and back to summer metabolic activity. A review.

Stephane Knoll, Walter Pinna, Antonio Varcasia, Antonio Scala, Maria Grazia Cappai

Beekeeping plays a key role within animal productions since millennia. Honey bee colonies consist mainly out of worker bees which, besides based on their behavioural roles, are divided according to seasonal appearance. In this manner, a distinction is made between classical summer bees and long lived winter or "diutinus" bees. Seasonal transition into their winter form allows honey bee colonies to survive harsh winter conditions through in-hive thermoregulation and by initiating brood rearing for the new cycle. Vitellogenin, the main bee nutritional storage molecule, is central in winter bee physiology and accounts for the typical features associated with diutinus bees (high hemolymph and fat body lipid and protein contents, hypertrophied hypopharyngeal glands and longevity). Overall, transition into the winter bee state can be explained by extension of the mechanisms regulating juvenile hormone metabolism and worker bee age based division of labour, namely; changes in bee nutrient stores, brood microclimate and colony age demography. Furthermore, substantial evidence has been produced indicating the arrival of winter bees to be strongly correlated to decreasing brood rearing activity in fall. Subsequently, factors regulating the brood rearing pattern of honey bees can be considered key triggers in the appearance of winter bees. In this way, the arrival of winter bees is mainly linked to plummeting pollen supplies in fall. The effect of other triggers have either been categorised as lesser, indirect or their involvement remains unclear.

The current knowledge regarding the functionality of the seasonal transition of honey bee colonies has led to the description of an elegant system controlled by a multitude of internal and external factors. Regardless, certain aspects of this phenomenon still remain unknown and especially the transition back from winter to summer bees still represents an open question.

Publisher URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1871141319317603

DOI: 10.1016/j.livsci.2020.104011

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