Why are bee colonies worldwide suffering mysterious deaths? A unique study describes a single bee protein that can promote bee health and solve a major economic challenge.
Honey bees are the most effective pollinators of many agricultural crops and vitally important to food production.
Honey bee health is a topic of considerable concern due to massive deaths of bee colonies in the USA and Europe. Recently, the European Union reacted by promising more resources for honey bee research, estimating European pollination to an economic value of EUR 22 billion.
"Detailed studies on the molecules that keep bees healthy are extremely important to the food industry as well as the global provision of food," said dr. Heli Havukainen, who defended her PhD thesis at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB) on November 25. Her study of honey bees is a collaboration between UMB and the University of Bergen (UiB), Norway.
More protein = better health and longer life
One of these molecules is a protein called vitellogenin. "Simply put, the more vitellogenin in bees, the longer they live. Vitellogenin also guides bees to do different social tasks, such caregiving or foraging. It also supports the immune function and is an antioxidant that promotes stress resistance. In my research, I set out to find out how this molecule is shaped and how it behaves on a nano-scale. This provides us with more knowledge about how vitellogenin is good for honey bees," Havukainen said.
Like a freight train
Under the supervision of Professor Gro Amdam (UMB and Arizona State University) and Associate Professor yvind Halskau (UiB), Havukainen discovered that vitellogenin can be described as a freight train consisting of a locomotive and a carriage. The protein carries fat as its cargo, which it picks up in the bees' belly-fat cells - the main station. The vitellogenin "train" travels in the bee's blood and delivers the fat
|Contact: Torunn Moe|
Norwegian University of Life Sciences