, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 191-196

Division of labor between scouts and recruits: genetic influence and mechanisms

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Every recruitment system in social insects requires some individuals that serve as scouts, foragers that search independently for food sources. It is not well understood which factors influence whether an individual becomes a scout or a recruit, nor how the division of labor between the two forager groups is regulated. It is shown here for honeybees (Apis mellifera), using two different molecular techniques, that there is a genetically based difference in the probability that individuals will scout independently for food. In contrast to earlier suggestions, experimental tests showed that the age of a bee does not seem to influence its probability of becoming a scout or a recruit. Furthermore, scout bees do not search opportunistically for either pollen or nectar but, rather, individuals have preferences that are genetically based. These findings are discussed in the framework of foraging regulation by specialization in honeybees and the adaptive significance of polyandry.

Received: 23 October 1997 / Accepted after revision: 10 April 1998