Digital image processing and honey bee (Apis mellifera) grooming

Monday, November 17, 2014: 8:24 AM
C124 (Oregon Convention Center)
Carl Giuffre , Biomathematics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
Michael Simone-Finstrom , Entomology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
David Tarpy , Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC

Grooming is a significant aspect of insect behavior which can determine important features of an individual's health, such as disease resistance. In eusocial insects, individual grooming also contributes to the overall health of the colony as it plays a role in social immunity. Grooming can be particularly effective in reducing mite loads, preventing fungal infections and in some cases can lead to social vaccination. Unfortunately, the quantification of insect grooming often is labor-intensive, and requires manual observation of insect behavior. We have designed a novel assay to quantify self-grooming of the honey bee (Apis mellifera) using automated digital image processing techniques. By coating honey bees in baking flour (or powder) and recording them in an arena, we are able to measure changes in pixel data as honey bees groom themselves with minimal behavioral observationsData will be presented which validate this as a useful, high-throughput tool to assess grooming rates of individuals and colonies. Evidence from preliminary trials will also be presented that suggest colony-level differences in honey bee grooming based on the amount of genetic diversity within a colony.