Importance of knowing how lipid soluble pesticides, fungicides and miticides can affect Honey Bees

This semester, I had the opportunity to intern in Dr. vanEngelsdorp’s lab and was able to research potential pesticide, fungicide and miticide effects on honey bees. Honey bees have fat bodies that functions as a reserve for food. Fat bodies are composed of trophocytes, which are cells containing mostly fats, some protein and glycogen, and oenocytes, which are secretory cells involved in wax production [1].

Honey Bee Anatomy. Picture from:

Honey Bee Anatomy. Picture from:

Studies regarding certain pesticide, fungicide and miticide usage have shown to have a negative impact on the fitness of honey bees. Some of these chemicals are lipid soluble toxins. These chemicals have been found to be stored in the plant’s pollen and nectar after having been sprayed, which could present as a problem to honey bees since these are a source of food. The ingestion of the tainted nectar and pollen could potentially be stored in their fat body reserves.

Fat bodies comprise about 60% of the total body weight of a honey bee larva [2]. Nursing bees have a lower fat percentage than larvae; however they contain higher volumes of fat bodies in comparison to forager bees. As nursing bees transition into forager bees, they metabolize these fat bodies. Forager bees are lighter due to the loss of these fat body reserves, allowing for ease of flight. Instead of relying upon fat bodies, foragers can sustain themselves by utilizing the pollen and nectar they collect as a food source.

Honey Bee Larva. Picture from:

Honey Bee Larva. Picture from:

Since certain pesticides, fungicides and miticides are lipid-soluble, it would be of interest to research whether there are traces of these chemicals in honey bee fat bodies. As these fats are being metabolized by the bees as larvae or during their transition from nursing to forager bees, are these toxins being released into the honey bee’s system? If they are, how are these toxins affecting the honey bee’s fitness?

Preliminary research on these questions showed that there have been minimal studies done on the topic of whether or not these chemicals are stored in honey bee fat bodies. There was also a lack of procedural protocols on how to extract lipids from these fat bodies for analysis, which led to this semester’s project. Our goals include finding an appropriate procedure for extracting lipids from honey bee fat bodies, analyzing extracted fat bodies to determine if there are potential chemicals stored and if so, which chemicals are stored. This project could then lead to figuring out how these toxins affect honey bees.


1. Internal Anatomy of Honey Bees. (n.d.). Retrieved from

2. Bishop, G. (1961, January 1). Growth rates of honey bee larva. Digital documents Archive in agronomy science. Retrieved from

3. Xu, X., & Gao, Y. (2013, January 1). Isolation and characterization of proteins and lipids from honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) queen larvae and royal jelly. Food Research International. Retrieved from

4. Singh, R., & Singh, P. (1995, January 1). Amino Acid and Lipid Spectra of larvae of honey bee (Apis cerana Fabr) feeding on mustard pollen. Apidologie. Retrieved from



Written By: Sue Boo

Sue Boo has written 1 post in this blog.

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  • Genie Coats

    I would like to comment on what might be happening to our honey bees and our people, concerning the GMO stuff that Monsanto is doing to our plants and our food.
    I believe that the GMO stuff is doing the harm. It almost caused me to develop dementia, by taking a supplement that was made from GMO’d soy! I started acting stupid and not realizing what I was saying when with friends after taking soy lecithin for about three years! My husband was kind enough to tell me what I was doing, and confront me, and I asked God in my prayers what was wrong, and the two words that came to my mind after the prayer, was, “brain fog”. I looked it up on the computer and it gave several answers, and the one I investigated was,”soy lecithin can cause brain fog!” I immediately stopped taking it, and have gradually returned to being normal, without the problem. I have a friend that had told me that soy lecithin was good for your brain, and she had been taking it also. It did not affect her, but I found out that she had been only taking it from a soy lecithin vitamin that was made by a company that only organically grows everything that it makes its vitamins from! I know that I never want to ever take anything again that makes its vitamins from any vegetables or fruit that is grown from GMO’d products! I believe also, that the GMO’d vegetables and etc. that bees pollinate could be causing the deaths of the bees! There is a goood reason to guess why NO European nations will allow GMO’d products into their countries! Everyone should know that anything that God makes, is always better for you than anything man makes! It is time that this is stopped before all of our bees die! Even Einstein made the comment one time, “If all of the bees were to die, the human race would not live very long at all!” Something very important to realize!
    I was surprized at how horrible it was to have what happened to me, because it was just as most people who get Alzheimer’s, and they do not even realize what is happening to them, but with my husband sitting me down and explaining to me what I was doing, it made me aware, and with God’s help the problem was solved! I just want this to help others, and get this horrible problem stopped! Soy lecithin is in almost every baked product that is made in this Nation, and I watch everything that I eat, to make sure that it is NOT in it. We also do NOT eat anything that has corn it in either. We try to buy all of our corn, wheat, or soy from farmers that grow it organically! This Monsanto stuff needs to be STOPPED as soon as possible!

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  • Latinbee

    very very interesting your research! Did you find an appropriate procedure for extracting lipids from honey bee fat bodies? I would like to read your paper soon 🙂

    • Todd Waters

      We did not find a good extraction method unfortunately. We were losing a lot of material throughout the process to our glassware. Increasing bees sampled, increased volume, which required bigger glassware, which became coated with more of the lipids we were trying to extract. It was an uphill battle and so we’re looking for alternatives that minimize contact with glassware, and that minimize transfers from one piece of equipment to another.

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