Bee larvae’s transition from larva to bee is of critical importance; food quality will dictate whether they become queen bees or worker bees.
Worker bees feed on a mixture of honey and pollen, while future queens receive special royal jelly with fertility stimulants for added sustenance.
Nectar is a sweet liquid produced by flowers through glands known as nectaries that attracts pollinating animals such as bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds that contribute unknowingly to pollination by feeding on its nectar. Nectar also provides essential nutrition to insects that allow them to survive and reproduce successfully.
Once an egg hatches into a larva, it resembles an unassuming white grub with no distinguishing characteristics. Unfortunately, until its body becomes larger enough for escape from its individual wax cell it cannot leave this environment, and must continue eating in order to expand and leave its confines.
Larvae that are destined to become workers consume bee bread, a combination of pollen and nectar, while those destined to become queens consume royal jelly, an aquatic white secretion that contains nutritional supplements and fertility boosters as well as fragments of genetic material from flowers that bees have visited; this genetic material helps guide growth into adulthood as well as providing food during times when no flowers bloom. Royal jelly serves both purposes simultaneously – providing nutrition during times when flowers don’t exist as food sources and providing storage during periods when flowers don’t blooming as food stockpile during times when flowers don’t blooming!
Bees collect pollen and honey from flowers, combine it with salivary gland secretions from their salivary glands, and combine this mixture with salivary gland secretions to form bee bread – a protein-rich food used by developing larvae and workers of honeybee colonies. Researchers have discovered that beebread contains high concentrations of plant microRNAs which regulate flower size, shape and morphology – when researchers fed bee larvae an artificial diet mimicking beebread with this concentration of plant microRNAs they saw that their bees grew more workerlike with smaller bodies and smaller ovaries.
Bee bread is fermented to increase its nutritional value, providing iron, vitamin B and other minerals while speeding up metabolism of toxins that are eliminated through urine. Bruun Jensen’s team discovered that bee bread had a delicious nutty taste similar to beef’s nutritional profile – making it both appealing to honey bees as well as humans!
Pollen is the powdery substance produced by flowers that contains male contributions for future plant generations. Bees spread this pollen as they search for food, fertilizing plants with each hop as it moves from flower to flower. Workers bees combine pollen and nectar together in the form of bee bread which they feed larvae – producing workers or queens depending on its composition.
Larvae that are set on becoming future queens are fed royal jelly, a white liquid composed of pollen and chemicals from other worker bees that contains proteins, dietary supplements and fertility stimulants – providing future queens with essential nourishment throughout their lives.
Researchers from Nanjing University have recently made an astounding discovery: bee bread composition can affect honey bee caste. When scientists produced synthetic beebread with microRNA extracted from pollen added, larvae that consumed it showed less characteristics associated with future queen bees: They weighed less, were shorter in height and had smaller ovaries when compared to those that didn’t consume this mixture.
All honey bees go through three developmental stages, starting from eggs through larvae to pupae. Fertilized eggs may develop into queens, drones or workers depending on what nutrients they receive during incubation. Royal jelly – produced by nurse bee glands – is distributed among female larvae in colonies to all of its female members destined to become queens or workers respectively; queens receive extra royal jelly while those meant for workers are given mixtures of pollen and honey instead.
Researchers from Nanjing University collected samples of pollen, honey and royal jelly from beehives and measured their miRNA (small RNA molecules that regulate gene expression) content. Beebread and pollen had high concentrations of miRNAs while royal jelly contained far fewer. Based on this discovery, bee larvae fed enriched lab diets containing miRNAs from beebread and pollen developed slowly while those that would become drones matured faster and had larger ovaries than expected.