Low temperature exposure (20 °C) during the sealed brood stage induces abnormal venation of honey bee wings

All insects are influenced by low temperature. However, as a typical stenothermic insect, the honey bee is perhaps the most severely affected. Low temperature exposure during the capped brood stages leads to high mortality and shortened worker longevity. The impact of low temperature stress on vein development has not, however, been investigated. In this study, the eight different developmental stages of capped brood (Apis mellifera) were exposed to 20 °C for 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 84, and 96 h, and then incubated at 35 °C (the optimum temperature for brood development) until emergence. We found a total of 21 abnormal vein types, consisting of 16 types of supernumerary veins and five types of lost veins. The abnormal phenomena in the brood occurred mainly 1–4 days after capping, when the metamorphosis process from larvae to pupa occurs. Our results suggest that this metamorphosis process is critical for the development of veins, indicating it as the most sensitive period to low-temperature. In addition, we found a cross vein “rs-m” between Rs and M in the hind wing of the honey bee, which has previously been ignored due to its very short length. This study on the effects of temperature on wing venation in stenothermic insects adds to our understanding of the thermal requirements for shaping the wing vein pattern, and for predicting wing venation deformation. This also adds a new research route for the investigation of the evolutionary relationship between honey bees and other hymenopteran insects.