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Social Recovery from Losses in the Workforce: Honey Bee Colonies as a Model of Recovery Strategies

Projektleitung an der Universität Würzburg:

Beteiligte Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler:

Social behaviour in animals requires overlap of generations and division of labour. In social insects, such as the honeybee, labour is divided among reproductive and non-reproductive castes: the queen and workers, respectively. Among workers, labour is divided along an age progression: non-risky tasks in the hive fall to young workers and risky tasks outside the hive fall to old bees. The oldest bees gather food outside of the nest (foraging). As workers age, they are more likely to forage. The distribution of hive workers to foragers can be disturbed in a disaster, such as a storm or a predator attack. When a colony of honey bees is disturbed in its workforce distribution, the system adjusts, until the correct proportion of hive workers to foragers is reached. The key to this self regulation is a social signal chemical (pheromone), which contains ethyl oleate. Foragers produce ethyl oleate, but hive workers do not. When hive bees are exposed to ethyl oleate, their normal ageing process slows, and this keeps them longer in the hive. When foragers are lost, the ethyl oleate exposure of hive bees decreases and hive bees progress faster towards foraging. Further, different honey bee subspecies have different survival strategies: subspecies that invest greatly in foraging recover faster from losses in their workforce than subspecies that invest less in foraging. We propose to use two subspecies of honeybee that differ in their survival strategies to investigate the regulatory network that controls colony responses to losses of foragers. We hope to gain insights into the link between a society's response to a disastrous loss in the workforce and the survival strategy of that society.
We will study groups of workers, in terms of ethyl oleate perception, accumulation, metabolism and transmission. We will then study interactions within colonies in response to different types of disaster, to establish the type of loss that will cause a response within the worker population. Quantitative data from experiments will be incorporated into mathematical models, ranging from the responses of individual workers to the response of an entire colony. These models could be useful in other contexts, for example, the impact of epidemics or natural disasters on human societies and their recovery strategies.

    Chemische Kommunikation
    Neuronale Plastizität
    Soziale Insekten
    Soziale Regulation

Laufzeit: von 11.2007 bis 11.2011

Sonstige Stiftung ( Human Frontier Science Program ) ,Genehmigungsdatum: 07/2007