Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 287–293

Adaptive significance of the age polyethism schedule in honeybee colonies

  • Thomas D. Seeley

DOI: 10.1007/BF00299306

Cite this article as:
Seeley, T.D. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1982) 11: 287. doi:10.1007/BF00299306


The adaptive origins of the honeybee's age polyethism schedule were studied by testing whether the schedule for labor inside the nest reflects a compromise between efficiency in locating tasks and efficiency in performing tasks. I checked two predictions of this hypothesis: (1) at each age a worker handles a set of tasks (rather than one task), and (2) the elements of each age's task-set co-occur spatially in the nest (rather than being spatially segregated). Most observations match these predictions, once workers reach the age of 2 days. The unpredicted specialization of 0 to 2-day-old workers on the single task of cell cleaning may reflect an unusual ease in locating work sites for this particular task. There are 5 female castes in honeybee colonies: the queen (reproductive caste), plus 4 age subcastes among the workers (cell cleaning caste, broodnest caste, food storage caste, and forager caste).

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas D. Seeley
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA