Department or Program

Biological Sciences

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Heather Mattila


A critical task performed by honey bee workers is foraging for nectar and pollen to produce honey and bee bread, a colony’s only two sources of nutrients. Pollen in particular serves as the primary source of essential proteins, lipids, vitamins, and minerals for colony members, especially during larval development. However, colonies can become pollen stressed for many reasons including habitat loss, natural fluctuations in pollen availability, or stressful management practices. Previous work in this lab has shown that adult workers reared under pollen-limited conditions were developmentally stunted and relatively inactive foragers and waggle dancers compared to adult workers reared with adequate access to pollen. These effects are found even when differences in genetic background and adult environment are shared among workers. For the present project, we further explored the effects of developmental pollen stress on foraging behavior, particularly on inspection, a specialized foraging role in which inspector foragers independently revisit known food sources. This study confirms previous reports of precocious foraging in pollen-stressed workers and reveals the importance of accounting for this effect in behavior assays, contributing to a growing body of work investigating the effect of pollen stress early in life on the late-in-life foraging behavior of adult workers.

Available for download on Wednesday, April 20, 2022