Infectious processes in a social group are driven by a network of contacts that is generally structured by the organization arising from behavioral and spatial heterogeneities within the group. Although theoretical models of transmission dynamics have placed an overwhelming emphasis on the importance of understanding the network structure in a social group, empirical data regarding such contact structures are rare. In this paper, I analyze the network structure and the correlated transmission dynamics within a honeybee colony as determined by food transfer interactions and the changes produced in it by an experimental manipulation. The study demonstrates that widespread transmission in the colony is correlated to a lower clustering coefficient and higher robustness of the social network. I also show that the social network in the colony is determined by the spatial distribution of various age classes, and the resulting organizational structure provides some amount of immunity to the young individuals. The results of this study demonstrates how, using the honeybee colony as a model system, concepts in network theory can be combined with those in behavioral ecology to gain a better understanding of social transmission processes, especially those related to disease dynamics.
Social networks Contact networks Social interactions Transmission dynamics Honeybees