, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 12-16

Testing the blank slate hypothesis: why honey bee colonies accept young bees

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Special features facilitate the admission of new members, such as neonates, to otherwise closed animal societies. In eusocial insects, such as honeybees and paper wasps, young adults acquire a colony recognition phenotype from other colony members or nesting materials. Older adults must exempt them from expulsion during the acquisition period. Newly emerged adult honeybees gain tolerance in their colony before their acquisition of the colony recognition phenotype by presenting a blank slate, absent recognition cues. This makes them generically acceptable in honey bee colonies. This strategy is analogous to the easily recognizable phenotypes associated with juvenility in birds and mammals.

Received 25 September 2002; revised 20 June 2003; accepted 2 July 2003.