Larval starvation improves metabolic response to adult starvation in honey bees (Apis mellifera L.)

Ying Wang, Jacob B. Campbell, Osman Kaftanoglu, Robert Page, Gro Amdam, Jon Harrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Environmental changes during development have long-term effects on adult phenotypes in diverse organisms. Some of the effects play important roles in helping organisms adapt to different environments, suchasinsectpolymorphism. Others,especiallythoseresultingfroman adverse developmental environment, have a negative effect on adult health and fitness. However, recent studies have shown that those phenotypes influenced by early environmental adversity have adaptive value under certain (anticipatory) conditions that are similar to the developmental environment, though evidence is mostly from morphological and behavioral observations and it is still rare at physiological and molecular levels. In the companion study, we applied a short-term starvation treatment to fifth instar honey bee larvae and measured changes in adult morphology, starvation resistance, hormonal and metabolic physiology and gene expression. Our results suggest that honey bees can adaptively respond to the predicted nutritional stress. In the present study, we further hypothesized that developmental starvation specifically improves the metabolic response of adult bees to starvation instead of globally affecting metabolism under well-fed conditions. Here, we produced adult honey bees that had experienced a short-term larval starvation, thenwestarvedthemfor12 handmonitoredmetabolicrate,bloodsugar concentrations and metabolic reserves. We found that the bees that experienced larval starvation were able to shift to other fuels faster and better maintain stable blood sugar levels during starvation. However, developmental nutritional stress did not change metabolic ratesorblood sugar levels in adult bees under normal conditions. Overall, our study provides further evidence that early larval starvation specifically improves the metabolic responses to adult starvation in honey bees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)960-968
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Adaptive response
  • Anticipatory mechanism
  • Environmental stress
  • Eusocial species
  • Glucose
  • Glycogen
  • Metabolic rate
  • Nutrition
  • Respiratory quotient
  • Stress response
  • Trehalose
  • Triglycerides

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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