Early-life experience affects honey bee aggression and resilience to immune challenge

Clare C. Rittschof, Chelsey B. Coombs, Maryann Frazier, Christina M. Grozinger, Gene E. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations

Abstract

Early-life social experiences cause lasting changes in behavior and health for a variety of animals including humans, but it is not well understood how social information "gets under the skin" resulting in these effects. Adult honey bees (Apis mellifera) exhibit socially coordinated collective nest defense, providing a model for social modulation of aggressive behavior. Here we report for the first time that a honey bee's early-life social environment has lasting effects on individual aggression: bees that experienced high-aggression environments during pre-adult stages showed increased aggression when they reached adulthood relative to siblings that experienced low-aggression environments, even though all bees were kept in a common environment during adulthood. Unlike other animals including humans however, high-aggression honey bees were more, rather than less, resilient to immune challenge, assessed as neonicotinoid pesticide susceptibility. Moreover, aggression was negatively correlated with ectoparasitic mite presence. In honey bees, early-life social experience has broad effects, but increased aggression is decoupled from negative health outcomes. Because honey bees and humans share aspects of their physiological response to aggressive social encounters, our findings represent a step towards identifying ways to improve individual resiliency. Pre-adult social experience may be crucial to the health of the ecologically threatened honey bee.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number15572
JournalScientific reports
Volume5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 23 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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