Nutrient Utilization during Male Maturation and Protein Digestion in the Oriental Hornet

Levona Bodner*, Sofia Bouchebti, Omar Watted, Rya Seltzer, Ariel Drabkin, Eran Levin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Males of social Hymenoptera spend the first days following eclosion inside the nest before dispersing to find a young queen to mate with. During this period, they must acquire enough nutrients to enable their sexual maturation and store energy to sustain them through their nuptial journey. It was previously argued that adult hornets are unable to process dietary proteins and rely on the larvae to supply them with free amino acids and carbohydrates that they secrete via trophallaxis. Using isotopically enriched diets, we examined nutrient allocation and protein turnover in newly‐emerged males of the Oriental hornet during their maturation period and tested the protein digestion capability in the presence and absence of larvae in both males and worker hornets. The results indicated that protein turnover in males occurs during the first days following eclosion, while carbohydrates are incorporated into body tissues at higher rates towards the end of the maturation period. Additionally, we found that males cannot digest protein and depend on larval secretions as a source of nutrition, while workers, in contrast to previous reports, can metabolize protein independently. Our findings demonstrate the contribution of adult male nutrition and larval secretions to colony fitness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number241
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation1538/18


    • Amino acids
    • Nutrient allocation
    • Nutrition
    • Sexual maturation
    • Stable isotopes
    • Vespidae


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