Previous research showed that age-related division of labor in honey bees is associated with changes in activity rhythms; young adult bees perform hive tasks with no daily rhythms, whereas older bees forage with strong daily rhythms. We report that this division of labor is also associated with differences in both circadian rhythms and mRNA levels of period, a gene well known for its role in circadian rhythms. The level of period mRNA in the brain oscillated in bees of all ages, but was significantly higher at all times in foragers. Elevated period mRNA levels cannot be attributed exclusively to aging, because bees induced to forage precociously because of a change in social environment had levels similar to normal age foragers. These results extend the regulation of a 'clock gene' to a social context and suggest that there are connections at the molecular level between division of labor and chronobiology in social insects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6914-6919
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 6 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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