Through the use of proboscis-extension reflex conditioning, we demonstrate that honey bees ( Apis mellifera L.) bred for hygienic behavior (a behavioral mechanism of disease resistance) are able to discriminate between odors of healthy and diseased brood at a lower stimulus level than bees from a non-hygienic line. Electroantennogram recordings confirmed that hygienic bees exhibit increased olfactory sensitivity to low concentrations of the odor of chalkbrood infected pupae (a fungal disease caused by Ascosphaera apis ). Three-week-old hygienic bees were able to discriminate between the brood odors significantly better than three-week old non-hygienic bees. However, the differential performance in brood odor discrimination was primarily genetically based, not a direct result of age, experience, or the temporary behavioral state of the bee. Lower stimulus thresholds for both the olfactory and behavioral responses of hygienic bees may facilitate their ability to detect, uncap and remove diseased brood rapidly from the nest. In contrast, non-hygienic bees, possessing higher response thresholds, may not be able to detect diseased brood as easily. Our results provide an example of how physiological and behavioral differences between the hygienic and non-hygienic honey bee lines, operating at the level of the individual, could produce colony-specific behavioral phenotypes.
Masterman, R., Ross, R., Mesce, K. et al. J Comp Physiol A (2001) Olfactory and behavioral response thresholds to odors of diseased brood differ between hygienic and non-hygienic honey bees ( Apis mellifera L.) 187: 441. doi:10.1007/s003590100216
Masterman, R.; Ross, R.; Mesce, K.; Spivak, M..
Olfactory and behavioral response thresholds to odors of diseased brood differ between hygienic and non-hygienic honey bees (Apis mellifera L.).
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