Seasonal variation in the activity of selected antioxidant enzymes and malondialdehyde level in worker honey bees
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© 2017 The Netherlands Entomological Society
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The recent decline in managed honey bee populations, Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera: Apidae), has caused scientific, ecological, and economic concern. Research into the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), antioxidative defense mechanisms, and oxidative stress can contribute to our understanding of bee survival and conservation of this species. Activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and glutathione S-transferase (GST) enzymes together with levels of malondialdehyde (MDA) were measured in summer and winter honey bees sampled from three colonies. One colony was stationary (C1), entering the winter period having accumulated Robinia pseudoacacia L. (Fabaceae) honey, and two were migratory (C2 and C3), entering the winter period with mainly Tilia (Malvaceae) and Brassica (Brassicaceae) honey, respectively. Compared to summer workers, winter worker bees had decreased SOD and GST activity, and MDA level, whereas CAT activity increased in all three colonies. We also demonstrated that seasonality is the main factor responsible for changes in antioxidant enzymes and MDA levels in worker honey bees. Overall, our results indicate a difference between summer and winter worker bees, pointing at a reduced level of antioxidant enzyme defenses during overwintering which may be due to a decrease in production of ROS. The decreased levels of MDA measured in winter honey bees confirm this. As ROS are actively used by insects as a defense mechanism to fight pathogens, we suggest that reduced production of ROS contributes to higher susceptibility of winter honey bees to infections and reduced overwinter survival.