, Volume 193, Issue 2, pp 159-165
Date: 30 Sep 2006

The role of genetic diversity in nest cooling in a wild honey bee, Apis florea

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Simulation studies of the task threshold model for task allocation in social insect colonies suggest that nest temperature homeostasis is enhanced if workers have slightly different thresholds for engaging in tasks related to nest thermoregulation. Genetic variance in task thresholds is one way a distribution of task thresholds can be generated. Apis mellifera colonies with large genetic diversity are able to maintain more stable brood nest temperatures than colonies that are genetically uniform. If this phenomenon is generalizable to other species, we would predict that patrilines should vary in the threshold in which they engage in thermoregulatory tasks. We exposed A. florea colonies to different temperatures experimentally, and retrieved fanning workers at these different temperatures. In many cases we found statistically significant differences in the proportion of fanning workers of different patrilines at different experimental temperatures. This suggests that genetically different workers have different thresholds for performing the thermoregulatory task of fanning. We suggest, therefore, that genetically based variance in task threshold is a widespread phenomenon in the genus Apis.