Manipulation of carbohydrate diet and ensuing changes in weight and glycogen storage in bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) queens
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Bumble bees serve as important pollinators for human crops, but many of their populations have declined over the past 60 years. Bumble bee population decline is very important for humans because it reduces pollination services, which can lead to lower crop yields and devastating effects on our nutrition. In bumble bees, we hypothesized that when queens do not have enough sugar in their diet, they are unable to store glycogen, which is a storage form of carbohydrates in insects. From other studies, we know that glycogen is an important storage nutrient for queen bumble bees during the winter when they do not forage for food. Based on this, we predicted that queens fed less sugar during the period prior to overwintering would not gain weight. Additionally, we hypothesized that following the feeding period, queens that ate less sugar would have reduced glycogen levels. Our research on queen bumble bees supported our hypothesis, as queen bees fed little or no sugar weighed less and had lower glycogen levels at the end of the treatment period, whereas queens fed a sugar rich diet had higher glycogen levels and weighed more. These data suggest that sugar is essential for the storage of glycogen in bumble bee queens. This information is relevant to bumble bee conservation efforts, as it implies that sugar is an essential food source that can be increased in the wild to improve bumble bee queen survival likelihood during the winter.