Poor nutrition is an important factor in global bee population declines. A significant gap in knowledge persists regarding the role of various nutrients (especially micronutrients) in honey bees. Sterols are essential micronutrients in insect diets and play a physiologically vital role as precursors of important molting hormones and building blocks of cellular membranes. Sterol requirements and metabolism in honey bees are poorly understood. Among all pollen sterols, 24-methylenecholesterol is considered the key phytosterol required by honey bees. Nurse bees assimilate this sterol from dietary sources and store it in their tissues as endogenous sterol, to be transferred to the growing larvae through brood food. This study examined the duration of replacement of such endogenous sterols in honey bees. The dietary 13
C-labeled isotopomer of 24-methylenecholesterol added to artificial bee diet showed differential, progressive in vivo assimilation across various honey bee tissues. Significantly higher survival, diet consumption, head protein content and abdominal lipid content were observed in the dietary sterol-supplemented group than in the control group. These findings provide novel insights into phytosterol utilization and temporal pattern of endogenous 24-methylenecholesterol replacement in honey bees.
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