The effect of genotype, age, sex, and caste on response thresholds to sucrose and foraging behavior of honey bees (Apis mellifera L.)
Bees derived from artificially selected high- and low-pollen-hoarding strains were tested for their proboscis extension reflex response to water and varying sucrose concentrations. High-strain bees had a lower response threshold to sucrose than low-strain bees among pre-foragers, foragers, queens and drones. Pre-foraging low-strain workers showed ontogenetic changes in their response threshold to sucrose which was inversely related to age. High-strain foragers were more likely to return with loads of water compared to low-strain foragers. Whereas low-strain foragers were more likely to return with loads of nectar. Low-strain nectar foragers collected nectar with significantly higher sucrose concentrations than did the high-strain nectar foragers. Alternatively, low-strain foragers were more likely to return empty compared to high-strain foragers. These studies demonstrate how a genotypically varied sensory-physiological process, the perception of sucrose, are associated with a division of labor for foraging.
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