, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 217-222
Date: 11 Feb 2010

The influence of social hunger on food distribution and its implications for disease transmission in a honeybee colony

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Abstract

Social insect colonies are characterized by extensive interactions among individuals, exchanges that can also potentially transmit pathogens. The large majority of these social interactions in a honeybee colony result from food transfer among individuals. Since colony hunger is likely to have a significant influence on these interactions, we investigated its effect on the distribution of food within the colony. By pulsing two colonies having different amounts of stored food with a radioactive label, we found that a starved colony sent out a larger number of foragers, brought in more food, and stored more of it than the satiated colony. We also found that the food brought into a starved colony was distributed more uniformly within each age class than that in the satiated colony. The queen and the young individuals received the lowest exposure to the label even though the label entered different regions of the colony at the same rate. The satiation level of the colony did not influence the relative exposures of different age groups to the label but a higher amount of it was stored in the hungry colony. We discuss the significance of these results in terms of the role played by the organizational structure of the honeybee colony on the transmission dynamics of an infectious disease.