Honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies divide foraging activities between scouts, who search for new sources of food, and non-scouts, who rely on information from waggle dances to find food sources. Molecular analyses of scouts and non-scouts have revealed differences in the expression of numerous genes, including several related to neurotransmitter signaling. Despite this progress, we know almost nothing about cognitive, sensory, or behavioral differences that underlie scouting. We tested three hypotheses related to differences between scouts and non-scouts. First, we tested whether scouts and non-scouts differ in their reversal-learning abilities and found that scouts showed a significantly faster reversal in their response to an odor that was punished and then rewarded. The results also suggested an interaction between the effects of foraging role (scout or non-scout) and seasonal effects on reversal-learning abilities. Second, we tested whether scouts and non-scouts show differences in responsiveness to sucrose rewards and found no difference. Third, we hypothesized that scouts have more foraging experience than do non-scouts. We tested this by comparing wing damage and found that non-scouts showed greater wing damage in the early summer but not the late summer. Together, these three results contribute to our understanding of the underpinnings of scouting behavior.
- proboscis extension reflex
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Insect Science