The protein vitellogenin has long been known to play an important role in colony health. It is known to regulate queen bee and forager life span, and it affects social behavior, immunity, and stress response. Previous research has shown that worker bees with suppressed vitellogenin levels forage earlier, prefer foraging for nectar, and live shorter lives than bees with normal amounts of the protein. Conversely, bees with extra-high levels of vitellogenin begin foraging much later and prefer to collect pollen.
New research from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences shows that the vitellogenin carries fat through the bee circulatory system and deposits it at various locations in the bee’s body. Previously, it was believed the protein became permanently attached to the fat molecules rather than releasing them. According to researcher Heli Havukainen, this new understanding of how the protein works will aid in understanding the mechanisms by which vitellogenin operates and how it affects honey bee health.