Magnetoreception in Honeybees-I

Project: National Science and Technology CouncilNational Science and Technology Council Academic Grants

Project Details


A long time mystery is how animals maintain orientation and homing ability during long-distance flight. Honeybees (Apis mellifera) have the capacity of orientation and homing during long-distance flights. Living in large colonies and easily manipulated make honeybees a suitable animal model for studies on the mechanisms of orientation and homing. Hypotheses including vision, smell, and magnetoreception have been raised. However, honeybee homing mechanisms are still unclear. We focused on finding magnetite because magnetite is proposed as magnetoreceptor. We found magnetite in the iron granules of bees and clarified the formation of magnetite. Magnetoreception has been proposed to be used for the orientation and homing of honeybees, but whether magnetite is the magnetoreceptor is not known. Iron-sulfur cluster assembly protein 1 (Isca1) and cryptochrome (Cry) are proposed as a magnetoreceptor in pigeons and fruit flies. Whether these proteins are the magnetoreceptors of bees is also unknown. Our and previous studies (the distribution of magnetite in iron granules, the mechanism of magnetite formation, and behavior studies of magnetoreception process under normal functions of vision and smell) make us to further study the magnetoreception of honeybees. In this proposal, we ask a fundamental and key question which is whether magnetite, Isca1, or Cry2 is the magnetoreceptor of bees for magnetoreception. The specific aims of this proposal are: (1) create honeybees those are defective in magnetoreceptors by RNA interference (RNAi); (2) evaluate the impact on magnetoreception when honeybees are defective in magnetoreceptors in the laboratory; (3) investigate the homing rate and flight paths of honeybees those are defective in magnetoreceptor in the field. We expect to demonstrate that magnetite, Isca1, or Cry2 is the magnetoreceptor of honeybees for magnetoreception and to provide the useful research model for studying how animals maintain orientation and homing ability during long-distance flight.

Project IDs

Project ID:PA10607-1266
External Project ID:MOST106-2311-B182-003
Effective start/end date01/08/1731/07/18


  • Honeybee
  • magnetite
  • magnetoreception
  • RNA interference
  • behavior


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