Genetic variation in worker temporal polyethism and colony defensiveness in the honey bee, Apis mellifera

Tugrul Giray, Ernesto Guzmán-Novoa, Carol W. Aron, Benjamin Zelinsky, Susan E. Fahrbach, Gene E. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To test the hypothesis that colonies of honey bees composed of workers with faster rates of adult behavioral development are more defensive than colonies composed of workers with slower behavioral development, we determined whether there is a correlation between genetic variation in worker temporal polyethism and colony defensiveness. There was a positive correlation for these two traits, both for European and Africanized honey bees. The correlation was larger for Africanized bees, due to differences between Africanized and European bees, differences in experimental design, or both. Consistent with these results was the finding that colonies with a higher proportion of older bees were more defensive than colonies of the same size that had a lower proportion of older bees. There also was a positive correlation between rate of individual behavioral development and the intensity of colony flight activity, and a negative correlation between colony defensiveness and flight activity. This suggests that the relationship between temporal polyethism and colony defensiveness may vary with the manner in which foraging and defense duties are allocated among a colony's older workers. These results indicate that genotypic differences in rates of worker behavioral development can influence the phenotype of a honey bee colony in a variety of ways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-55
Number of pages12
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000


  • Apis mellifera
  • Behavioral development
  • Defense
  • Foraging
  • Honey bees
  • Life history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


Dive into the research topics of 'Genetic variation in worker temporal polyethism and colony defensiveness in the honey bee, Apis mellifera'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this