The impacts of maternal stress on worker phenotypes in the honey bee
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Maternal stress is a common source of heritable health and behavioral variation. This type of maternal effect could be particularly important for honey bees (Apis mellifera), as a single queen is responsible for many generations of workers who perform all colony functions including raising subsequent worker generations. Multiple factors work synergistically to cause colony loss, but a role for maternal stress effects is unstudied. We used an artificial cold temperature treatment as a proof-of-concept approach to investigate whether acute queen stress causes changes in worker phenotypes, including egg hatching rate, development time, and adult behavior and immune function. We found that queen stress impacts early-life phenotypes (egg hatching and development time), with more limited impacts on adult phenotypes (behavior and immune function). Thus, if maternal stress impacts colony health, it is likely through cumulative impacts on worker population numbers, not through phenotypic effects that impact individual adult worker behavior or health resilience. This study addresses an important and overlooked question, and provides a baseline understanding of the likely impacts of queen stress on worker phenotypes.
Keywordsmaternal effects climate change queen failure immune function gene expression
S.R.P. carried out data collection, analysis, and manuscript writing. J.W.H. assisted in experimental setup and data collection. J.H.P. and H.M.C. conducted molecular analyses C.C.R. designed study, performed data analysis, and wrote manuscript.
This work is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture Hatch Program under accession number 1012993, by a Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research Pollinator Health Fund (Grant ID: 549049), and by the University of Kentucky Bucks for Brains Summer Research Program.
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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