Biological Sciences

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The negative effects on adult behavior of juvenile undernourishment are well documented in vertebrates, but relatively poorly understood in invertebrates. We examined the effects of larval nutritional stress on the foraging and recruitment behavior of an economically important model invertebrate, the honey bee (Apis mellifera). Pollen, which supplies essential nutrients to developing workers, can become limited in colonies because of seasonal dearths, loss of foraging habitat, or intensive management. However, the functional consequences of being reared by pollen-stressed nestmates remain unclear, despite growing concern that poor nutrition interacts with other stressors to exacerbate colony decline. We manipulated nurse bees’ access to pollen and then assessed differences in weight, longevity, foraging activity, and waggle-dance behavior of the workers that they reared (who were co-fostered as adults). Pollen stress during larval development had far-reaching physical and behavioral effects on adult workers. Workers reared in pollen-stressed colonies were lighter and shorter lived than nestmates reared with adequate access to pollen. Proportionally fewer stressed workers were observed foraging and those who did forage started foraging sooner, foraged for fewer days, and were more likely to die after only a single day of foraging. Pollen-stressed workers were also less likely to waggle dance than their unstressed counterparts and, if they danced, the information they conveyed about the location of food was less precise. These performance deficits may escalate if long-term pollen limitation prevents stressed foragers from providing sufficiently for developing workers. Furthermore, the effects of brief pollen shortages reported here mirror the effects of other environmental stressors that limit worker access to nutrients, suggesting the likelihood of their synergistic interaction. Honey bees often experience the level of stress that we created, thus our findings underscore the importance of adequate nutrition for supporting worker performance and their potential contribution to colony productivity and quality pollination services.


Final version of Scofield HN, Mattila HR (2015) Honey Bee Workers That Are Pollen Stressed as Larvae Become Poor Foragers and Waggle Dancers as Adults. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0121731. doi:10.1371/journal. pone.0121731

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