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The effects of artificial rearing environment on the behavior of adult honey bees, Apis mellifera L.

Mortensen, AshleyN., Ellis, JamesD.
Behavioral ecology and sociobiology 2018 v.72 no.6 pp. 92
Apis mellifera, adults, artificial rearing, brood rearing, honey bees, immatures, juveniles, laboratory experimentation, larvae, pathogens, pesticides, pupal development, sucrose, vertebrates
Honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) are obligate eusocial organisms and receive intensive parental care from their nestmates during larval and pupal development. The importance of the juvenile environment to adult behavior has been well documented in vertebrate species. However, the extent to which the developmental environment may affect adult behavior in honey bees is not well understood. We conducted a multifaceted study to compare the behavior of adult honey bees that are reared in vitro to that of bees reared by their parental colony. Laboratory assays were conducted to evaluate the following honey bee behaviors: (1) queen recognition, (2) nursing, (3) trophallactic food sharing, and (4) sucrose responsiveness. There were no statistical differences in trophallactic food sharing or queen recognition behaviors between bees reared in vitro and those reared in their parental colony. Statistically detectable differences were identified in the nursing behavior and sucrose responsiveness between bees reared in vitro and those in their parental colony. In addition to providing insights into the origin of basic honey bee behaviors, our findings relate to the relevance of in vitro rearing as a tool for assessing the risk of certain stressors, such as pesticides and pathogens, to honey bee health. Our results underscore the impact that juvenile environment can have on adult bee behavior. We assert that the immature stages of honey bee development are dynamic and that future behavioral research will benefit from accounting for the influence that the rearing environment can have on adult behavior. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: We know little about how the environment in which bees develop might affect their behavior as adults. We conducted a series of laboratory tests to compare the behavior of adult honey bees that had been artificially reared in the laboratory to adult bees that were reared in a hive. We found that some behaviors were not affected by rearing environment. However, brood-rearing behavior was reduced in bees that had been artificially reared compared to bees that were reared in a hive. Our data suggests that some areas of honey bee behavior are influenced by the rearing environment. Artificial rearing is a useful procedure in honey bee health research, and this is the first time that the behavior of artificially reared bees has been assessed.