Measurement of protein and sugar consumed by bumblebee larvae under standard and food stress conditions using lanthanide complexes

  • L. Macháčková
  • A. Votavová
  • M. Mikát
  • S. Matějková
  • I. Řehoř
  • S. Gillarová
  • J. StrakaEmail author
Research Article


Measurement of food consumed by larvae of progressive provisioning bees requires an experimental approach that marks the food sources appropriately. This paper aims to measure the amount of sugars and proteins consumed by a single bumblebee larva and to define, how the proportion between protein and sugar changes under stress conditions. We marked sugar and pollen sources using lanthanide (gadolinium, dysprosium) complexes with diethylene-triamine-pentaacetic acid (DTPA) chelator. We precisely quantified the amount of Gd and Dy in feces, and thus quantified linearly correlated protein and sugar consumed by males and females (workers) of Bombus terrestris during their development. We compared body mass, total amount of ingested sugar and total amount of ingested protein in colonies which are fed ad libitum and in colonies with restricted feeding. Males fed ad libitum during their development ingested 0.52 mg of protein and 4.43 mg of sugar, and workers fed ad libitum ingested 0.54 mg of protein and 4.26 mg of sugar per 1 mg of dry body weight on average. Food-stressed workers ingested 0.51 mg of protein and 4.65 mg of sugar per 1 mg of dry body weight on average. Strong positive correlation between body mass, total protein ingested, and total sugar ingested in all our experiments was present. However, the consumption of sugar grew steeper with the consumption of protein in colonies under food stress compared to the ad libitum-fed colonies. In conclusion, we show the existence of different patterns in ingestion of protein and sugar between well-fed and food-stressed bumblebee colonies.


Sugar Protein Food stress Marking technique Lanthanides Apidae 



We would like to thank Vojtěch Kubíček (Department of Inorganic Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Charles University) for help with the preparation of lanthanide complexes. We thank Tereza Fraňková for language proofreading of the text. The study was supported by the Grant Agency of Charles University (project no. 338815/2015) (to LM), the SVV (Specific University Research) project no. 260434/2018 (to LM, MM and JS); the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic (DKRVO 2018/13, National Museum, Prague, 00023272) (to LM); the framework of the Czech National Agency for Agriculture Research by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic (Earth QK 1810233) and institutional support from the Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic (MZE-RO1718) (to AV).


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Zoology, Faculty of ScienceCharles UniversityPragueCzech Republic
  2. 2.Agricultural Research, LtdTroubskoCzech Republic
  3. 3.Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CASPragueCzech Republic
  4. 4.Department of Carbohydrates and Cereals, Faculty of Food and Biochemical TechnologyUniversity of Chemistry and Technology PraguePragueCzech Republic
  5. 5.Department of EntomologyNational MuseumPragueCzech Republic
  6. 6.Department of Chemical EngineeringUniversity of Chemical TechnologyPragueCzech Republic

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