Xenobiotic detoxification pathways in honey bees

May R. Berenbaum, Reed M. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Relative to most other insect genomes, the western honey bee Apis mellifera has a deficit of detoxification genes spanning Phase I (functionalization), II (conjugation) and III (excretion) gene families. Although honeybees do not display across-the-board greater sensitivity to pesticides, this deficit may render them vulnerable to synergistic interactions among xenobiotics. Diet quality, in terms of protein and phytochemical content, has a pronounced influence on tolerance of toxic compounds. Detoxification gene inventory reduction may reflect an evolutionary history of consuming relatively chemically benign nectar and pollen, as other apoid pollinators display comparable levels of cytochrome P450 gene reduction. Enzymatic detoxification in the eusocial A. mellifera may be complemented by behaviors comprising a 'social detoxification system,' including forager discrimination, dilution by pollen mixing, and colony food processing via microbial fermentation, that reduces the number or quantity of ingested chemicals requiring detoxification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-58
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Opinion in Insect Science
StatePublished - May 16 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Xenobiotic detoxification pathways in honey bees'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this