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Article
Nutritional status influences socially regulated foraging ontogeny in honey bees
Journal of Experimental Biology (2005)
  • Amy L. Toth, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Sara Kantarovich, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Adam F. Meisel, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Gene E. Robinson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract
In many social insects, including honey bees, worker
energy reserve levels are correlated with task performance
in the colony. Honey bee nest workers have abundant
stored lipid and protein while foragers are depleted of
these reserves; this depletion precedes the shift from nest
work to foraging. The first objective of this study was to
test the hypothesis that lipid depletion has a causal effect
on the age at onset of foraging in honey bees (Apis
mellifera L.). We found that bees treated with a fatty acid
synthesis inhibitor (TOFA) were more likely to forage
precociously. The second objective of this study was to
determine whether there is a relationship between social
interactions, nutritional state and behavioral maturation.
Since older bees are known to inhibit the development of
young bees into foragers, we asked whether this effect is
mediated nutritionally via the passage of food from old to
young bees. We found that bees reared in social isolation
have low lipid stores, but social inhibition occurs in
colonies in the field, whether young bees are starved or
fed. These results indicate that although social interactions
affect the nutritional status of young bees, social and
nutritional factors act independently to influence age at
onset of foraging. Our findings suggest that mechanisms
linking internal nutritional physiology to foraging in
solitary insects have been co-opted to regulate altruistic
foraging in a social context.
Keywords
  • Apis mellifera,
  • division of labor,
  • foraging,
  • honey bee,
  • lipid,
  • nutrition,
  • social inhibition.
Publication Date
2005
DOI
10.1242/jeb.01956
Publisher Statement
This is an article from Journal of Experimental Biology 208 (2005): 4641, doi:10.1242/jeb.01956
Posted with permission. Copyright 2005 The Company of Biologists
Citation Information
Amy L. Toth, Sara Kantarovich, Adam F. Meisel and Gene E. Robinson. "Nutritional status influences socially regulated foraging ontogeny in honey bees" Journal of Experimental Biology Vol. 208 (2005) p. 4641 - 4649
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/amy-toth/11/