Honey proteins are essential bee nutrients and antimicrobials that protect honey from microbial spoilage. The majority of the honey proteome includes bee-secreted peptides and proteins, produced in specialised glands; however, bees need to forage actively for nitrogen sources and other basic elements of protein synthesis. Nectar and pollen of different origins can vary significantly in their nutritional composition and other compounds such as plant secondary metabolites. Worker bees producing and ripening honey from nectar might therefore need to adjust protein secretions depending on the quality and specific contents of the starting material. Here, we assessed the impact of different food sources (sugar solutions with different additives) on honey proteome composition and stability, using controlled cage experiments. Honey-like products generated from sugar solution with or without additional protein, or plant secondary metabolites, differed neither in protein quality nor in protein quantity among samples. Storage for 4 weeks prevented protein degradation in most cases, without differences between food sources. The honey-like product proteome included several major royal jelly proteins, alpha-glucosidase and glucose oxidase. As none of the feeding regimes resulted in different protein profiles, we can conclude that worker bees may secrete a constant amount of each bee-specific protein into honey to preserve this highly valuable hive product.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited