Honey bee sociogenomics: A genome-scale perspective on bee social behavior and health

Adam G. Dolezal, Amy L. Toth

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The biology of honey bees involves a host of developmental, behavioral, and physiological components that allow thousands of individual bees to form complex social units. Fueled by a wealth of information from new genomic technologies, a new approach, sociogenomics, uses a focus on the genome to integrate the molecular underpinnings and ultimate explanations of social life. This approach has resulted in a massive influx of data from the honey bee genome and transcriptome, a flurry of research activity, and new insights into honey bee biology. Here, we provide an up-to-date review describing how the honey bee has been successfully studied using this approach, highlighting how the integration of genomic information into honey bee research has provided insights into worker division of labor, communication, caste differences and development, evolution, and honey bee health. We also highlight how genomic studies in other eusocial insect species have provided insights into social evolution via comparative analyses. These data have led to several important new insights about how social behavior is organized on a genomic level, including (1) the fact that gene expression is highly dynamic and responsive to the social environment, (2) that large-scale changes in gene expression can contribute to caste and behavioral differences, (3) that transcriptional networks regulating these behaviors can be related to previously established hormonal mechanisms, and (4) that some genes and pathways retain conserved roles in behavior across contexts and social insect taxa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-395
Number of pages21
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • behavioral maturation
  • caste
  • comparative genomics
  • division of labor
  • genome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science


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