Aggression in Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) May Be Socially Transmitted Through Familial Care That is Mediated by Multiple Pheromones.

Grants and Contracts Details


The social environment in which a worker honey bee is raised impacts how aggressive she is as an adult, but how does a larva with limited sensory capabilities perceive the nature of her social environment? I propose that the social environment acts indirectly on larvae by altering the behavior of nurse bees, individuals who visit and feed a developing larva up to a staggering 2,855 times per day (2). In the context of aggression, I hypothesize that changes in nurse bee behavior are mediated by cross-talk between two honey bee social pheromones, alarm pheromone (which adult workers use to recruit sisters for aggressive nest defense) and E-B-ocimene (which worker larvae use to signal starvation to their nurses) (3, 4). Increased frequency of alarm pheromone exposure in high-aggression colonies could alter a nurse's response to E-B-ocimene, a competing olfactory signal to which she is very sensitive. With funding from the Animal Behavior Society, I will conduct two experiments that address this idea. First, I will evaluate how baseline aggression and alarm pheromone exposure modulate nurse response to larval begging cues. Finally, I will use electroantennogram assays to assess on a peripheral level how a nurse bee’s nervous system responds to both of these pheromones alone and together, and whether this response is dependent on baseline aggression.
Effective start/end date5/20/195/19/21


  • Animal Behavior Society: $1,301.00


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