Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 265–267

Response thresholds to sucrose predict foraging division of labor in honeybees

  • T. Pankiw
  • R.E. Page Jr
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s002650050664

Cite this article as:
Pankiw, T. & Page Jr, R. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2000) 47: 265. doi:10.1007/s002650050664


Division of labor, where thousands of individuals perform specific behavioral acts repeatedly and non-randomly, is the hallmark of insect societies. Virtually nothing is known about the underlying neurophysiological processes that direct individuals into specific behavioral roles. We demonstrate that sensory-physiological variation in the perception of sucrose in honeybees measured when they are 1 week old correlates with their foraging behavior 2–3 weeks later. Workers with the lowest response thresholds became water foragers, followed with increasing response thresholds by pollen foragers, nectar foragers, bees collecting both pollen and nectar, and finally those returning to the colony empty (water<pollen<nectar<both<empty). Sucrose concentrations of nectar loads were positively correlated with response thresholds measured on 1-week-old bees. These results demonstrated how the variable response thresholds of a sensory-physiological process, the perception of sucrose, is causally linked to the division of labor of foraging.

Key words HoneybeeBehaviorForagingResponse thresholdsNeuroethology

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Pankiw
    • 1
  • R.E. Page Jr
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA e-mail: Tel: +1-530-7525456, Fax: +1-530-7521537US