The fa(c)ts that matter: Bumble bees differentially allocate and oxidate three common fatty acids in pollen

Rya Seltzer, Adi Domer, Sofia Bouchebti, Ariel Drabkin, Eran Levin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pollen serves as a crucial source of protein and lipids for numerous insects. Despite the importance of pollen lipids for nutrient regulation in bees, the digestibility and absorption of different fatty acids (FAs) by bees remain poorly understood. We used 13C labeled fatty acids (FAs) to investigate the absorption and allocation of three common dietary FAs in pollen by bumble bees. Palmitic acid, the most common saturated FA in pollen, was poorly absorbed, even when supplied as tripalmitate, emulsified, or mixed in vegetable oil. In contrast, the essential linoleic acid was absorbed and allocated at the highest rate among the three FAs tested. Oleic acid, a non-essential monounsaturated FA, was absorbed and oxidized at lower rates than linoleic acid. Notably, a feeding rate experiment revealed that different fatty acids did not affect the consumption rate of pollen. This results suggests that the specific FA's absorption efficiency and allocation differ in bumble bees, impacting their utilization. These findings demonstrate the importance of considering the digestibility and absorption of different FAs. Furthermore, the study highlights the influence of pollen lipid composition on the nutritional content for pollinators and raises questions about the utilization of polyunsaturated FAs in insect metabolism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104552
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
StatePublished - Sep 2023


FundersFunder number
United States - Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development FundUS-5182-19


    • Bumble bees
    • Fatty acid
    • PUFA
    • Pollen
    • SFA
    • Stable carbon isotope


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