Original Paper

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 66, Issue 11, pp 1459-1466

First online:

Complex pleiotropy characterizes the pollen hoarding syndrome in honey bees (Apis mellifera L.)

  • Robert E. PageJr.Affiliated withSchool of Life Sciences, Arizona State University
  • , M. Kim FondrkAffiliated withSchool of Life Sciences, Arizona State University
  • , Olav RueppellAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro Email author 

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The pollen hoarding syndrome consists of a large suite of correlated traits in honey bees that may have played an important role in colony organization and consequently the social evolution of honey bees. The syndrome was first discovered in two strains that have been artificially selected for high and low pollen hoarding. These selected strains are used here to further investigate the phenotypic and genetic links between two central aspects of the pollen hoarding syndrome: sucrose responsiveness and pollen hoarding. Sons of hybrid queen offspring of these two strains were tested for sucrose responsiveness and used to produce colonies with either a highly responsive or an unresponsive father. These two colony groups differed significantly in the amount of pollen stored on brood combs and with regard to their relationship between brood and pollen amounts. Additionally, four quantitative trait loci (QTL) for pollen hoarding behavior were assessed for their effect on sucrose responsiveness. Drone offspring of two hybrid queens were phenotyped for responsiveness and genotyped at marker loci for these QTL, identifying some pleiotropic effects of the QTL with significant QTL interactions. Both experiments thus provided corroborating evidence that the distinct traits of the pollen hoarding syndrome are mechanistically and genetically linked and that these links are complex and dependent on background genotype. The study demonstrates genetic worker–drone correlations within the context of the pollen hoarding syndrome and establishes that an indirect selection response connects pollen hoarding and sucrose responsiveness, regardless of which trait is directly selected.


Reproductive ground plan hypothesis Social evolution Complex trait genetics Division of labor Proboscis extension reflex Pleiotropy Genetic background