Setting honey bee nutrition minimum requirements and toxicity for Australian bee stock

University of Western Australia

  • Project code: PRO-013153

  • Project stage: Current

  • Project start date: Tuesday, March 1, 2022

  • Project completion date: Saturday, June 28, 2025

  • National Priority: HBE-Improve hive productivity with innovative pest and disease control, feeding, breeding, and automation solutions


Current knowledge of honey bee nutrition is based on research done 60 years ago, in Europe. However beekeeping practices have changed dramatically since then, high intensity beekeeping and new genetic stock, especially in Australia have been bred to produce huge honey crops, as well as functioning in long term stressful environments such as monofloral honey crops and pollination services. To increase effectiveness on hive maintenance, protein supplements need to be further investigated to ensure they meet the changing needs of our beekeeping industry. To do so, we first need to define what is required to sustain bee health in our bees. It is essential to understand the minimum requirements for healthy growing hives and also levels of toxicity to ensure any supplements used are optimal and safe. Measuring bee survival, growth and nutrient consumption, we will estimate the minimum requirements, bioavailability and toxicity levels for bees during development. We will use newly developed feeding boxes in which larvae are reared in mini combs inside the box inside the incubator. By using cutting edge technology, to redefine nutrition requirements of Australian bee stock and using existing knowledge of pollen content, we can better assess floral sources as well as pollen and protein supplements. Here we will create more detailed information about essential levels of protein and amino acid concentrations as well as toxicity thresholds of minerals and vitamins. It will also help beekeepers and supplement producers make more precise choices, improving utility and cost efficacy. Despite honey bees being an agricultural stock, supplement regulations are limited in defined feed efficacy and safety regulations for honey bees. We aim to provide the knowledge required to inform honey bee supplement production, which could then be taken up as industry standards by B-QUAL Industry Owned Quality Assurance System. 


Honey Bee

Research Organisation

University of Western Australia

Objective Summary

The overall objective is to expand the existing honey bee nutrition data by gaining more detailed results for essential amino acid concentrations. The current knowledge of minimal requirements of amino acids is not detailed enough to measure Australian eucalypt honey flora against. We will further add knowledge about the nutritional requirements of honey bees during larval development. Today’s honeybees, especially here in Australia, have been bred to produce huge honey crops, as well as functioning in long term stressful environments such as monofloral honey crops and pollination services. Businesses are increasing in size and beekeeping is a much more intensive and stressful operation on the bees than in the past. Similar to top athletes, bees are now required to perform at previously inconceivable levels, consequently nutrition requirements have changed.