Biogenic amines in the antennal lobes and the initiation and maintenance of foraging behavior in honey bees

David J. Schulz, Michelle M. Elekonich, Gene E. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous findings showed that high levels of octopamine and serotonin in the antennal lobes of adult worker honey bees are associated with foraging behavior, and octopamine treatment induces precocious foraging. To better characterize the relationship between amines and foraging behavior in honey bees, we performed a detailed correlative analysis of amine levels in the antennal lobes as a function of various aspects of foraging behavior. Flight activity was measured under controlled conditions in a large outdoor flight cage. Levels of octopamine in the antennal lobes were found to be elevated immediately subsequent to the onset of foraging, but they did not change as a consequence of preforaging orientation flight activity, diurnal pauses in foraging, or different amounts of foraging experience, suggesting that octopamine helps to trigger and maintain the foraging behavioral state. In contrast, levels of serotonin and dopamine did not show changes that would implicate them as either causal agents of foraging, or as neurochemical systems affected by the act of foraging. Serotonin treatment had no effect on the likelihood of foraging. These results provide further support for the hypothesis that an increase in octopamine levels in the antennal lobes plays a causal role in the initiation and maintenance of the behavioral state of foraging, and thus is involved in the regulation of division of labor in honey bees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)406-416
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2 2003


  • Antennal lobes
  • Foraging behavior
  • Octopamine
  • Serotonin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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