Influence of sugar experience during development on gustatory sensitivity of the honey bee.


Department of Biology, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Brownsville, TX 78520, United States. Electronic address: [Email]


The level of response to sugar plays a role in many aspects of honey bee behavior including age dependent polyethism and division of labor. Bees may tune their sensitivity to sugars so that they maximize collection of high quality nectar, but they must also be able to collect from less profitable sources when high quality food is scarce. However, our understanding of the mechanisms by which bees can change their responsiveness to different sugars remains incomplete. To investigate the plasticity of sensitivity to sugar, bees were raised on different sugars either in vitro or in colonies. Bees raised in the incubator on diets containing mostly either fructose or glucose showed significantly more responsiveness to the majority sugar. In contrast, bees raised in colonies that only foraged on fructose or glucose responded equally well to both sugars. These data suggest that developmental plasticity for responses to sugar is masked by the feeding of worker jelly to larvae and young bees. The production of worker jelly from secretions of the hypopharyngeal and mandibular glands by nurse bees ensures that both glucose and fructose are experienced by young bees so that they respond to both sugars and will be able to exploit all future food sources.


Development,Fructose,Glucose,Gustation,Proboscis extension response,Taste,