Honeybees, Apis mellifera, have several prophylactic
disease defense strategies, including the foraging of antibiotic,
antifungal, and antiviral compounds of plant products.
Hence, honey and pollen contain many compounds that prevent
fungal and bacterial growth and inhibit viral replication.
Since these compounds are also fed to the larvae by nurse
bees, they play a central role for colony health inside the hive.
Here, we show that honeybee nurse bees, infected with the
microsporidian gut parasite Nosema ceranae, show different
preferences for various types of honeys in a simultaneous
choice test. Infected workers preferred honeys with a higher
antibiotic activity that reduced the microsporidian infection
after the consumption of the honey. Since nurse bees feed not
only the larvae but also other colony members, this behaviour might be a highly adaptive form of therapeutic medication at
both the individual and the colony level.