, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 17-25

Genotypic variability in age polyethism and task specialization in the honey bee, Apis mellifera (Hymenoptera: Apidae)

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The currently accepted model for division of labor in honey bees, Apis mellifera, explains variation in the frequency at which workers perform specific tasks as the result of differences in age and environment. Although well documented, the model is incomplete because it fails to take genotypic variability among workers into account. We show that workers from two genetically distinct strains of honey bees differed in the age at which they began foraging and in the relative frequency at which they foraged for pollen. Workers from the two strains also exhibited significant spatial heterogeneity within the nest, suggesting that they differed in the frequency at which they performed within-nest tasks as well. A heuristic model of division of labor that incorporates genotypic effects is presented.