, Volume 49, Issue 5, pp 573–580 | Cite as

A honey bee (Apis mellifera) colony’s brood survival rate predicts its in vitro-reared brood survival rate

  • Ashley N. MortensenEmail author
  • James D. Ellis
Original article


Rearing honey bee, Apis mellifera L., larvae in vitro is a popular risk assessment tool because many uncontrollable factors (e.g., weather conditions, food availability) that bias field studies can be eliminated in the laboratory. However, modern in vitro rearing techniques suffer variable survival rates and OECD guidelines specify a minimum of 70% survival to adult emergence in the untreated negative controls for the test to be considered valid. We hypothesized that the colony from which larvae are sourced for in vitro-rearing risk assessments may affect the survival percentage of those larvae in vitro. To test this hypothesis, we compared the survival rates of brood reared in vitro to that of brood reared by their parental colony to determine if source colony affects brood survival in vitro. Colony-reared and in vitro-reared brood survival percentages were calculated for each of the 14 colonies. There was not a statistically detectable difference in the survival percentage to adult emergence of colony-reared and in vitro-reared bees. Furthermore, the colony-reared brood survival percentage at day 11 (prepupal stage) was predictive of the survival percentage to adult emergence of in vitro-reared bees. We suggest that the 11-day brood survival percentage should be used when selecting suitable colonies for use as source colonies for in vitro-rearing risk assessments. Based on our results, colonies with brood survival percentages of ≥ 80% are suitable colonies from which to source larvae for in vitro-rearing risk assessments.


Apis mellifera honey bee in vitro brood rearing 



We are grateful to Daniel Schmehl and Hudson Tomé for their help with troubleshooting the in vitro rearing protocol, Cameron Jack for assistance in rearing honey bee larvae, Brandi Simmons and Emily Helton for ordering and preparing project supplies, Logan Cutts and Liana Teigan for managing healthy honey bee colonies, Vince Alderman for his diligent construction of project tools, and Edzar van Santen for statistical consultation.

Author contributions

ANM and JDE conceived this research; ANM performed experiments and wrote the paper; and JDE and ANM participated in the revisions of the paper. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Funding information

Funding for this project was provided by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Multistate Project (1005822) and the National Honey Board.


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Copyright information

© INRA, DIB and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory, Entomology & Nematology DepartmentUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research LimitedHamiltonNew Zealand

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