Amino Acids are building blocks of proteins. All amino acids are comprised of 4 groups. The first three are common in all amino acids. They are:
- Alpha Carbon (C-H)
- Amine Group (N-H-H)
- Carboxyl Group (O-C-OH)
The last is the R Group. The R Groups are what defines the individual amino acids. Some are polar or non-polar, hydrophobic or hydrophilic. These amino acids bind together to form proteins. The Alpha, Amine, and Carboxyl Groups form the backbone of peptides (short chains of amino acids) through covalent bonds where the Carboxyl Group of one amino acid reacts with the Amine Group of another. The R Group sets the form or helix based upon the different chemical attractions.
Peptides are differentiated from Proteins by size. Peptides are considered short chains of amino acids (usually less than 50). These Peptides come together in chains to form polypeptides. Proteins are consisting of one or more polypeptide chains arranged in a biologically functional way.
Amino Acids are essential in our diets as well as honey bees. Honey bees can be comprised of as much as 60% protein, whereas humans are only comprised of around 20%. There are 20 amino acids, however, 10 are essential amino acids for the bees. They are listed below as well as the minimum required per percentage of amino acid in protein digested.
- Threonine 3%
- Valine 4%
- Methionine 1.5%
- Leucine 4.5%
- Iso-leucine 4.0%
- Phenylalanine 2.5%
- Lysine 3.0%
- Histidine 1.5%
- Arginine 3.0%
- Tryptophan 1.0%
These amino acids are also essential for humans due to the fact that of the 20 amino acids, these 10 can not be synthesized by the body. They come directly from food. For bees, it comes in the form of pollen. Bees need to collect pollen with at least 20% protein, and of that protein, it needs to be balanced with the above amino acids.
Vitellogenin (Vg) is a protein that is comprised of 1770 amino acids that is synthesized in the bees body. It is located in the fat stores and carries and distributes fat cells through the bees body through the hemolymph. Vg serves many purposes. Nurse bees that have been fed adequate quantites of the correct mixes of amino acids have strong Vg. This allows them to produce higher quality royal jelly and worker jelly.
Vg also surpresses the Juvenile Hormone (JH) in bees. This reduction in JH in worker bees signals them to become foragers quicker. Vg also protects against oxidative stress in the bees.
In today’s world of monoculture, bees are not being fed adequate diets. We do use pollen substitutes in the form of patties or powdered supplement, however, these do not replace what the bees can get from natural pollen. Randy Oliver did a test of various pollen supplements. His findings were that there are some very good in regards to brood rearing, but he found that the best was natural pollen.