Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 205, Issue 4, pp 609–617 | Cite as

Appetite is correlated with octopamine and hemolymph sugar levels in forager honeybees

  • Christopher MayackEmail author
  • Nicole Phalen
  • Kathleen Carmichael
  • Helen K. White
  • Frank Hirche
  • Ying Wang
  • Gabriele I. Stangl
  • Gro V. Amdam
Original Paper


Insects have rapidly changing energy demands, so they primarily rely on hemolymph and other carbohydrates to carry out life activities. However, how gustatory responsiveness and hemolymph sugar levels coordinate with one another to maintain energetic homeostasis in insects remains largely unknown for the highly social honeybee that goes through large physiological and behavioral changes. The potential role of biogenic amines and neuropeptides in the connection between the regulation of appetite and fluctuating sugar levels in the hemolymph, due to starvation, as the bee ages, was investigated. The largest appetite increase due to the starvation treatment was within the forager age class and this corresponded with an increase in octopamine levels in the brain along with a decline in hemolymph sugar levels. Adipokinetic hormone (AKH) was found in very small quantities in the brain and there were no significant changes in response to starvation treatment. Our findings suggest that the particularly dynamic levels of hemolymph sugar levels may serve as a monitor of the forager honeybee energetic state. Therefore, there may be a pathway in forager bees via octopamine responsible for their precise precipitous regulation of appetite, but to determine cause and effect relationships further investigation is needed.


Starvation Aging Biogenic amines Trehalose Hemolymph 



Adipokinetic hormone


Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry


Generalized linear model


Gustatory response score


High-performance liquid chromatography


Multivariate analysis of variance

PER assay

Proboscis extension response assay



We thank Mariann Pü, Brian Shields, Rebecca Zhou, Victor Le, and Elizabeth Eppley for assistance with hemolymph extractions, brain dissections, and data collection. The authors would also like to thank Dr. Kathleen Howard for providing access to her lyophilizer and assisting with its use. This work was supported by an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellowship award to CM, a Swarthmore College Surdna Summer Research Fellowship to KC, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellowship to NP.

Data availability

The datasets generated during the current study are available in the Open Science Framework repository,

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All honeybees were handled humanely in accordance with current ethical standards. Special ethical approval is not required to carry out this study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Biology/General ZoologyMartin-Luther-University Halle-WittenbergHalle (Saale)Germany
  2. 2.Department of BiologySwarthmore CollegeSwarthmoreUSA
  3. 3.Molecular Biology, Genetics, and Bioengineering, Faculty of Engineering and Natural SciencesSabancı UniversityIstanbulTurkey
  4. 4.Department of ChemistryHaverford CollegeHaverfordUSA
  5. 5.Institute of Agricultural and Nutritional SciencesMartin-Luther-University Halle-WittenbergHalle (Saale)Germany
  6. 6.School of Life SciencesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  7. 7.Faculty of Environmental Sciences and Natural Resource ManagementNorwegian University of Life SciencesÅsNorway

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