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Ovarian regulation of honey bee (Apis mellifera) foraging division of labor

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There is increasing evidence that ovarian status influcences behavioral phenotype in workers of the honey bee Apis mellifera. Honey bee workers demonstrate a complex division of labor. Young workers perform in-hive tasks (e.g. brood care), while older bees perform outside

There is increasing evidence that ovarian status influcences behavioral phenotype in workers of the honey bee Apis mellifera. Honey bee workers demonstrate a complex division of labor. Young workers perform in-hive tasks (e.g. brood care), while older bees perform outside tasks (e.g. foraging for food). This age correlated division of labor is known as temporal polyethism. Foragers demonstrate further division of labor with some bees biasing collection towards protein (pollen) and others towards carbohydrates (nectar). The Reproductive Ground-plan Hypothesis proposes that the ovary plays a regulatory role in foraging division of labor. European honey bee workers that have been selectively bred to store larger amounts of pollen (High strain) also have a higher number of ovarioles per ovary than workers from strains bred to store less pollen (Low strain). High strain bees also initiate foraging earlier than Low strain bees. The relationship between ovariole number and foraging behavior is also observed in wild-type Apis mellifera and Apis cerana: pollen-biased foragers have more ovarioles than nectar-biased foragers. In my first study, I investigated the pre-foraging behavioral patterns of the High and Low strain bees. I found that High strain bees progress through the temporal polyethism at a faster rate than Low strain bees. To ensure that the observed relationship between the ovary and foraging bias is not due to associated separate genes for ovary size and foraging behavior, I investigated foraging behavior of African-European backcross bees. The backcross breeding program was designed to break potential gene associations. The results from this study demonstrated the relationship between the ovary and foraging behavior, supporting the proposed causal linkage between reproductive development and behavioral phenotype. The final study was designed to elucidate a regulatory mechanism that links ovariole number with sucrose sensitivity, and loading decisions. I measured ovariole number, sucrose sensitivity and sucrose solution load size using a rate-controlled sucrose delivery system. I found an interaction effect between ovariole number and sucrose sensitivity for sucrose solution load size. This suggests that the ovary impacts carbohydrate collection through modulation of sucrose sensitivity. Because nectar and pollen collection are not independent, this would also impact protein collection.

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2011

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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 find and choose food sources, and share both food and

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.

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2017