Many neurobiological and physiological factors are known to influence task choice in social insects. However, the role of worker nutrition in division of labor is not yet understood. This work examines the connection between nutritional state (as indicated by stored lipid) and division of labor in the Western honey bee, Apis mellifera. We found nurses (typically young bees) have higher lipid levels than foragers (typically older bees). Experimental colonies, producing bees of the same age performing different tasks, demonstrated the lipid decline in foragers is not attributable to age. Analysis of bees with gradients of foraging experience revealed the act of foraging itself has little effect on lipid stores. Furthermore, lipid levels were low even on the first day of foraging, suggesting the lipid decline precedes the onset of foraging. Experimental manipulations of lipid levels are being performed to investigate whether nutrition plays a causal role in worker behavioral differentiation. In summary, our findings provide preliminary evidence that worker nutritional state may be an important factor in division of labor in social insects.
Species 1: Hymenoptera Apidae Apis mellifera (Western honey bee)
Keywords: division of labor, nutrition
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