, Volume 92, Issue 9, pp 440–443 | Cite as

Non-random nectar unloading interactions between foragers and their receivers in the honeybee hive

  • Joaquín Goyret
  • Walter M. Farina
Short Communication


Nectar acquisition in the honeybee Apis mellifera is a partitioned task in which foragers gather nectar and bring it to the hive, where nest mates unload via trophallaxis (i.e. mouth-to-mouth transfer) the collected food for further storage. Because forager mates exploit different feeding places simultaneously, this study addresses the question of whether nectar unloading interactions between foragers and hive-bees are established randomly, as it is commonly assumed. Two groups of foragers were trained to exploit a different scented food source for 5 days. We recorded their trophallaxes with hive-mates, marking the latter ones according to the forager group they were unloading. We found non-random probabilities for the occurrence of trophallaxes between experimental foragers and hive-bees, instead, we found that trophallactic interactions were more likely to involve groups of individuals which had formerly interacted orally. We propose that olfactory cues present in the transferred nectar promoted the observed bias, and we discuss this bias in the context of the organization of nectar acquisition: a partitioned task carried out in a decentralized insect society.


Eugenol Honeybee Coloni Food Transfer Nectar Source Nonanol 
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We are in debt with P. Fernández and M. Gil for attending the feeders during the experiments and H. Verna for technical assistance. We also thank J. Núñez, R. De Marco, R. Raguso and three anonymous referees for valuable comments on early versions of this manuscript; especially to R. De Marco, whose contribution to the discussion was substantial. We also thank Monika Shehi for language editing. This study was partially supported by funds from ANPCYT (01-12319), CONICET (02049), University of Buenos Aires (X036) and Fundación Antorchas to WMF. The present study complies with the current laws of the state country in which experiments were performed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Grupo de Estudio de Insectos Sociales, Departamento de Fisiología, Biología Molecular y Celular, IFIBYNE-CONICET, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y NaturalesUniversidad de Buenos Aires, Pabellón II, Ciudad Universitaria (C1428EHA)Buenos AiresArgentina
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of South CarolinaSouth CarolinaUSA

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