Murray State Theses and Dissertations


One-third of our worldwide fruit, nut and vegetable production is completely dependent on the existence of pollinators. Commercial honey bees, Apis mellifera, have an annual economic value of $15 billion in the U.S. Additionally, their honey is valued at $150 million annually. In Fall 2006, commercial beekeepers observed sudden mass disappearances of whole colonies. By Spring 2007, the condition, dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), raised environmental and fiscal concerns while the cause(s) continued to be sought. Forensic examinations of hive samples did not reveal a singular cause of CCD. The results pointed to a collection of detrimental factors affecting the overall health and resiliency of the hives. The factors included pathogens, parasites, poor hygiene and malnutrition. Commercial colonies are particularly vulnerable to CCD due to immunosuppression caused primarily by malnutrition worsened with continuous stressors of foraging food deserts (acres and acres of monocultures), predation, parasites, exposure to chemicals (fungicides, herbicides, pesticides, neonicotinoids), and pathogens. Complete nutrition is the keystone in order to establish, maintain and expand healthy hives with resilience. A continuous diet with little diversity, as seen with monoculture crops, does not support the colony’s activities (establishment, development, and colony expansion) due to limitations in essential amino acids. Soybean flour is frequently used as the base protein source for dietary substitutes due to the high protein content and it is readily available for beekeepers to make up for dearth or pollen shortages. However, dietary deficiencies occur due to the high protein content and the limiting nutrients. The colonies on a restricted protein source (soybean flour) were able to establish and sustain hives weakly for a short time but consistently underperformed and then failed in comparison with the control hives that managed their own nutrition. Performance values used in the study were weight (kg), population of brood, % of drawn comb, and % of food stores. The test colonies were not able to rear brood in generation three and all of the queens of the three test hives failed by the 11th week of the study. The singular source of protein did not support resiliency in the test colonies and the control colonies thrived with access to the same protein source but with additional self-regulated inputs.

Year manuscript completed


Year degree awarded


Author's Keywords

honey bee nutrition royal jelly protein

Dissertation Committee Chair

Dr. Brian Parr

Thesis Advisor

Dr. Alyx Shultz

Committee Member

Kent Williams

Document Type