The macronutrient regulation of adult worker honey bees

Studying naturally occurring pollen nutrients to identify the most important dietary components for honey bees.

Team lead

Prof Phil Stevenson (Co-PI)
Prof Geraldine Wright (Oxon; overall PI)


Dr Iain Farrell
Dr Pengjuan Zu

Pollination contributes to producing the harvestable product for 75 per cent of crop species. It is especially important for soft fruit, vegetable, and nut crops, which are increasingly important for most human diets. Pollinators, and their well-being, are therefore important to our health and survival.

Domesticated bees are the most important pollinators in agriculture. Commercial honeybee keepers maintain thousands of colonies, but often struggle to find enough natural pollen to feed their colonies, especially in winter. Insufficient nutrition is one of the main factors for the poor health in honeybee colonies. Beekeepers rely on commercial pollen substitutes but these are not scientifically formulated and do not contain all of the essential nutrients bees need.

In this project we are extending our research on bee nutrition by using naturally sourced nutrients from pollen and royal jelly to identify how bees regulate protein and lipids in their diets. We will also examine how sources of proteins and lipids can be combined to produce diets that meet the honeybee’s needs for essential nutrients. Our data will be used to advise beekeepers on the materials and their combinations that can be used to formulate pollen substitutes when pollen is unavailable. 

Professor Geraldine Wright, Oxford University