The survival consequences of grooming in the honey bee Apis mellifera

A. M. Foose, R. R. Westwick, M. Vengarai, C. C. Rittschof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In social animals, disease management behaviors such as grooming occur in response to diverse stimuli, making it difficult to interpret the evolution and function of these phenotypes. The honey bee has a grooming repertoire that includes self-directed behaviors and allogrooming from nestmates. Many stimuli provoke these behaviors, and their impacts on individual and colony survivorship are unclear. We evaluated the effects of two different stressors on grooming frequencies and survivorship. We found that self-grooming frequency is activated in distinct ways in response to pathogen infection, pesticide treatment, and social context. Moreover, self-grooming frequency predicts individual survival. Allogrooming interactions were less common and did not predict individual survival. The honey bee highlights the difficulty inherent in interpreting the evolution and function of grooming interactions in highly social species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-287
Number of pages9
JournalInsectes Sociaux
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a University of Kentucky Office of Undergraduate Research Sustainability Research Fellowship (awarded to A. M. F.), the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hatch Program (1012993), the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (549049), and the National Science Foundation (IOS-2045901).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI).


  • Allogrooming
  • Social immunity
  • Varroa mite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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