Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Geriatric bees

Jacob Pithan, a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Kendra Greenlee (North Dakota State University), presented their research examining how aging affects exercise performance as well as oxidative health at last month’s Experimental Biology conference in Philadelphia.

The oxidative stress theory of aging postulates that aging results from an overproduction of free radicals along with a decrease in antioxidants that can scavenge them. The problem with free radicals is that they can interact with and damage molecules in the body. Oxidative damage to lipids, specifically, can cause cell death as changes in the plasma membrane affect its fluidity and elasticity.  

Jacob and his colleagues examined aging in solitary highly active alfalfa leafcutting bees, Megachile rotundata. As the name implies, these bees are important for the pollination of alfalfa. Captive alfalfa leafcutting bees can live between 1-2 months for females and 3-4 weeks for males. Similar to mammals, the researchers found that levels of oxidized lipids increased as the bees aged. They also found that, while walking activity remained rather consistent throughout the study, flight performance declined as the bees aged. Thus, the oxidative stress theory of aging may indeed apply to bees.   

Interestingly, another recent study published in the journal Antioxidants found that administering hemp extract to adult honeybees (Apis mellifera) not only increased levels of antioxidants in the bees, but also increased their lifespan (49-52 days) compared to bees fed a sugar syrup (35 days).


JB Pithan, JP Rinehart, KJ Greenlee, G Lopez-Martinez. Effects of aging on performance and oxidative damage. Experimental Biology Conference.

University of Michigan

P Skowronek, L Wojcik, A Strachecka. Impressive impact of hemp extract on antioxidant system in honey bee (Apis mellifera) organism. Antioxidants. 11(4): 707, 2022.

Categories: Aging, Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Livestock, Exercise, Physiology on the Road

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