Parasites and pathogens of the honey bee (Apis mellifera) are key factors underlying colony losses, which are threatening the beekeeping industry and agriculture as a whole. To control the spread and development of pathogen infections within the colony, honey bees use plant resins with antibiotic activity, but little is known about the properties of other substances, that are mainly used as a foodstuff, for controlling possible diseases both at the individual and colony level. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that pollen is beneficial for honey bees challenged with the parasitic mite Varroa destructor associated to the Deformed Wing Virus. First, we studied the effects of pollen on the survival of infested bees, under laboratory and field conditions, and observed that a pollen rich diet can compensate the deleterious effects of mite parasitization. Subsequently, we characterized the pollen compounds responsible for the observed positive effects. Finally, based on the results of a transcriptomic analysis of parasitized bees fed with pollen or not, we developed a comprehensive framework for interpreting the observed effects of pollen on honey bee health, which incorporates the possible effects on cuticle integrity, energetic metabolism and immune response.
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