Behaviour 2019
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Determining the mechanism of honey bee (Apis mellifera) self-removal as a potential social immune response
Jordan Twombly Ellis, Juliana Rangel. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, United States

The honey bee is an economically important pollinator and a tractable system for studying the behavioral consequences of eusociality. As eusocial insects, honey bees live in colonies comprised of thousands of sterile female workers and one reproductively active queen. Therefore, a worker’s inclusive fitness is best served by acting in the interest of her colony, even if that behavior curtails her own life. Stressed bees often leave the colony to forage early (10-14 days of age), which leads them to be unproductive foragers. We test the hypothesis that developmentally stressed worker bees, that are too young to forage (2-7 days of age), remove themselves from their colony due to extreme stress. To confirm whether this behavior is stress driven or an altruistic social immune response, we stressed bees with either cold shock or mite parasitization during pupation. Bees that were stressed by either treatment, as well as untreated controls bees, were introduced to an observation hive. We checked a trap at the hive entrance for self-removing bees every hour. We found that the stressed bees from both groups self-remove at a significantly higher rate than age-matched unstressed bees.