Collective behaviors are present across many different animal groups: schools of fish swimming in a swirling pattern together, large flocks of birds migrating through the night, groups of bees coordinating their behavior to defend their hive. These behaviors are commonly seen in social insects where as many as thousands of individuals work together, often with distinct roles. In honey bees, the role a bee plays in the colony changes as they age.
Researchers often study the genomes of individual organisms to try to tease out the relationship between genes and behavior. A new study of Africanized honey bees reveals, however, that the genetic inheritance of individual bees has little influence on their propensity for aggression. Instead, the genomic traits of the hive as a whole are strongly associated with how fiercely its soldiers attack.
The findings are reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Honey bees that guard hive entrances are twice as likely to allow in trespassers from other hives if the intruders are infected with the Israeli acute paralysis virus, a deadly pathogen of bees, researchers report.
Their new study, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, strongly suggests that IAPV infection alters honey bees’ behavior and physiology in ways that boost the virus’s ability to spread, the researchers say.
Explaining the evolution of insect society, with sterile society members displaying extreme levels of altruism, has long been a major scientific challenge, dating back to Charles Darwin’s day. A new genomic study of 10 species of bees representing a spectrum of social living – from solitary bees to those in complex, highly social colonies – offers new insights into the genetic changes that accompany the evolution of bee societies.
The new findings are reported in the journal Science.
Scientists report they can crank up insect aggression simply by interfering with a basic metabolic pathway in the insect brain. Their study, of fruit flies and honey bees, shows a direct, causal link between brain metabolism (how the brain generates the energy it needs to function) and aggression.
The team reports its findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Many beekeepers feed their honey bees sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup when times are lean inside the hive. This practice has come under scrutiny, however, in response to colony collapse disorder, the massive -- and as yet not fully explained -- annual die-off of honey bees in the U.S. and Europe. Some suspect that inadequate nutrition plays a role in honey bee declines.
IGB Director Gene Robinson is featured in a recent Pacific Standard article by David Dobbs, entitled "The Social Life of Genes."
A new study in Science suggests that thrill-seeking is not limited to humans and other vertebrates. Some honey bees, too, are more likely than others to seek adventure. The brains of these novelty-seeking bees exhibit distinct patterns of gene activity in molecular pathways known to be associated with thrill-seeking in humans, researchers report.