Monday, December 10, 2007 - 9:41 AM

Honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) nurses differentiate between larvae based on nutritional status

Bradley N Metz, and Tanya Pankiw, Texas A&M University, Entomology, 2475 TAMU, RM 421, College Station, TX

Honey bee larvae are dependent on progressive provisioning from nurse bees for food, yet the cues underlying the decision to feed are poorly understood. Six colonies installed in observation hives were used to test the hypothesis that nurse bees display tending behaviors differentially towards larvae isolated from nurses for 4 hrs versus control larvae. Side-by-side, same-aged areas of larvae containing approximately 500 individuals were either isolated using wire mesh for 4 h or covered with mesh that did not restrict nurse contact. Nursing behaviors were then observed for one hour. Time to first inspection, time to first feeding, number of inspections, number of feeding bouts, as well as intervals between inspections and feedings was observed in six randomly chosen larvae per colony. Finally, the total number of bees aggregating over isolated larval areas was counted at five minute intervals and found to be significantly greater when compared to control areas. This is the first known demonstration of differential adult nurse honey bee attendance to neighboring, same-aged larvae of differing nutritional states in the same colony at the same time. Adult bees were able to detect differences in the nutritional status of larvae and behaved accordingly.

Species 1: Hymenoptera Apidae Apis mellifera (honey bee)