Effects of colony food shortage on social interactions in honey bee colonies
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The age of onset of foraging in honey bee colonies is affected both by inhibitory social interactions among nestmates and starvation. We determined whether starvation affects worker-worker interactions by quantifying the frequencies of five social interactions (trophallaxis, begging, offering, antennating, and grooming) in colonies that either were starved or well-fed. We hypothesized that bees in starved colonies engage in fewer social interactions than bees in colonies with ample food stores. In all three trials, starved colonies had significantly greater numbers of foragers than well-fed colonies, as in a previous study. In three of three trials, starved bees showed a significantly higher frequency of begging behavior than well-fed bees. Begging in starved colonies increased exponentially with time as the starvation presumably grew more severe. Immediately following the onset of foraging in starved colonies, the frequency of begging declined dramatically. No consistent differences for other observed social behaviors were found. Our results under starvation conditions do not provide support for the hypothesis that precocious forager development must be associated with a decrease in social interactions. Perhaps factors that influence precocious foraging under starvation conditions differ from those under conditions of ample food stores. We speculate that the duration and specific nature of the social contact may be important. Furthermore, we speculate that begging itself may be a cue associated with precocious forager development.
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