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Ovarian Control of Nectar Collection in the Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)

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Honey bees are a model system for the study of division of labor. Worker bees demonstrate a foraging division of labor (DOL) by biasing collection towards carbohydrates (nectar) or protein

Honey bees are a model system for the study of division of labor. Worker bees demonstrate a foraging division of labor (DOL) by biasing collection towards carbohydrates (nectar) or protein (pollen). The Reproductive ground-plan hypothesis of Amdam et al. proposes that foraging DOL is regulated by the networks that controlled foraging behavior during the reproductive life cycle of honey bee ancestors. Here we test a proposed mechanism through which the ovary of the facultatively sterile worker impacts foraging bias. The proposed mechanism suggests that the ovary has a regulatory effect on sucrose sensitivity, and sucrose sensitivity impacts nectar loading. We tested this mechanism by measuring worker ovary size (ovariole number), sucrose sensitivity, and sucrose solution load size collected from a rate-controlled artificial feeder. We found a significant interaction between ovariole number and sucrose sensitivity on sucrose solution load size when using low concentration nectar. This supports our proposed mechanism. As nectar and pollen loading are not independent, a mechanism impacting nectar load size would also impact pollen load size.

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Date Created
  • 2012-04-30