Insulin-like peptide response to nutritional input in honey bee workers

Kate E. Ihle, Nicholas A. Baker, Gro Amdam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The rise in metabolic disorders in the past decades has heightened focus on achieving a healthy dietary balance in humans. This is also an increasingly important issue in the management of honey bees (Apis mellifera) where poor nutrition has negative effects on health and productivity in agriculture, and nutrition is suggested as a contributing factor in the recent global declines in honey bee populations. As in other organisms, the insulin/insulin-like signaling (IIS) pathway is likely involved in maintaining nutrient homeostasis in honey bees. Honey bees have two insulin-like peptides (Ilps) with differing spatial expression patterns in the fat body suggesting that AmIlp1 potentially functions in lipid metabolism while AmIlp2 is a more general indicator of nutritional status. We fed caged worker bees artificial diets high in carbohydrates, proteins or lipids and measured expression of AmIlp1, AmIlp2, and the insulin receptor substrate (IRS) to test their responses to dietary macronutrients. We also measured lifespan, worker weight and gustatory sensitivity to sugar as measures of individual physical condition. We found that expression of AmIlp1 was affected by diet composition and was highest on a diet high in protein. Expression of AmIlp2 and AmIRS were not affected by diet. Workers lived longest on a diet high in carbohydrates and low in protein and lipids. However, bees fed this diet weighed less than those that received a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates and lipids. Bees fed the high carbohydrates diet were also more responsive to sugar, potentially indicating greater levels of hunger. These results support a role for AmIlp1 in nutritional homeostasis and provide new insight into how unbalanced diets impact individual honey bee health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-55
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of insect physiology
Issue numberC
StatePublished - 2014


  • Apis mellifera
  • Insulin/insulin-like signaling
  • Nutritional homeostasis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Insect Science


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