Molecular Assessment of Genes Linked to Immune Response Traits of Honey Bees in Conventional and Organically Managed Apiaries
Center for Biological Control, College of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, FL 32307, USA
Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, USDA-ARS, Tallahassee, FL 32308, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 25 August 2020 / Revised: 12 September 2020 / Accepted: 15 September 2020 / Published: 17 September 2020
Honey bees play a critical role in agriculture as they provide pollination services to many agricultural crops. However, honey bee populations continue to decline due to exposure to pesticides, habitat destruction, pests, diseases and beekeeping practices. In this study, we assessed selected biological parameters associated with honey bee health in two beekeeping practices (organic and conventional). We compared total protein content in young worker bees from organically and conventionally managed apiaries. We also assessed differential gene expression at two levels of Varroa mite infestations (0% and 5%) in selected genes involved in nutrition and cellular defense (vitellogenin (Vg), malvolio (Mvl), prophenoloxidase (PPO)-, genes involved in lifespan (superoxide dismutase (Sod 1), superoxide dismutase 2 (Sod2)) and immune function genes (immune deficiency (Imd), spaetzle (Spz). Total soluble protein in young adult worker bees was similar in both beekeeping practices. The genes PPO, Vg and Mvl were upregulated in young adult bees with no mite infestations from organically managed apiaries and could mount an immune response through Spz and Sod 1 when challenged by 5% Varroa mite infestation levels. Overall, these findings provide useful insights into the genetic response of honey bees under two beekeeping practices and could help improve honey bee health.