Modulation of sensing and sharing food-related information in the honey bee

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Food is an essential driver of animal behavior. For social organisms, the acquisition of food guides interactions with the environment and with group-mates. Studies have focused on how social individuals

Food is an essential driver of animal behavior. For social organisms, the acquisition of food guides interactions with the environment and with group-mates. Studies have focused on how social individuals find and choose food sources, and share both food and information with group-mates. However, it is often not clear how experiences throughout an individual's life influence such interactions. The core question of this thesis is how individuals’ experience contributes to within-caste behavioral variation in a social group. I investigate the effects of individual history, including physical injury and food-related experience, on individuals' social food sharing behavior, responses to food-related stimuli, and the associated neural biogenic amine signaling pathways. I use the eusocial honey bee (Apis mellifera) system, one in which individuals exhibit a high degree of plasticity in responses to environmental stimuli and there is a richness of communicatory pathways for food-related information. Foraging exposes honey bees to aversive experiences such as predation, con-specific competition, and environmental toxins. I show that foraging experience changes individuals' response thresholds to sucrose, a main component of adults’ diets, depending on whether foraging conditions are benign or aversive. Bodily injury is demonstrated to reduce individuals' appetitive responses to new, potentially food-predictive odors. Aversive conditions also impact an individual's social food sharing behavior; mouth-to-mouse trophallaxis with particular groupmates is modulated by aversive foraging conditions both for foragers who directly experienced these conditions and non-foragers who were influenced via social contact with foragers. Although the mechanisms underlying these behavioral changes have yet to be resolved, my results implicate biogenic amine signaling pathways as a potential component. Serotonin and octopamine concentrations are shown to undergo long-term change due to distinct foraging experiences. My work serves to highlight the malleability of a social individual's food-related behavior, suggesting that environmental conditions shape how individuals respond to food and share information with group-mates. This thesis contributes to a deeper understanding of inter-individual variation in animal behavior.