Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Study Sheds Light On Behavior Of Middle-Age 'Undertaker' Bees

Date:
September 10, 1997
Source:
University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
It's a dirty job and only about 1 percent do it at any one time. But middle-aged honey bees that serve as undertakers -- removing dead bees from the hive -- appear to be a distinct cadre of workers that are developmentally ahead of their peers.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It's a dirty job and only about 1 percent do it at any one time. But middle-aged honey bees that serve as undertakers -- removing dead bees from the hive -- appear to be a distinct cadre of workers that are developmentally ahead of their peers.

Related Articles


In this social world known for its division of labor, there also were unexpected discoveries by researchers: Undertakers don't get better with experience, and they don't do well working together.

The findings are detailed in papers by Gene E. Robinson, a University of Illinois entomologist, and his former postdoctoral researcher Stephen T. Trumbo, now a professor at the University of Connecticut in Waterbury, Conn. The study on development, also written by U. of I. entomologist Zhi-Yong Huang, appears in the September issue of Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. The research on the undertakers' learning, or lack thereof, will be published in the fall in the journal Ethology.

The work -- which involved identifying the undertakers, marking them with tiny, colored and numbered plastic tags, and following them closely through middle age -- provides the first close look at undertakers. Since bees' nests are built in cavities, such a specialty is important for keeping the nests clean.

"Undertakers had very similar activity levels as other bees," Trumbo said. "They just do a little bit less of the other middle-aged tasks, like building the comb and storing food brought in by older foragers. They also remove debris, which fits in nicely with undertaking."

Undertakers also develop slightly faster than other midde-aged bees, moving on to foraging before food storers and hive builders. Middle age lasts about 10 days. Undertakers usually removed dead bees for a day or two, but "one extraordinary bee remained at the task for 13 days," Trumbo said.

Undertakers respond to the odor of the dead, locating the bodies and carrying them out of the hive for 50 to 100 meters before dropping them. The researchers also monitored how swiftly undertakers worked.

"We didn't find any evidence for learning for this particular task," Trumbo said. "This rules out one of the major hypotheses that has been put forward for middle-aged specialization: That social insects will get better and better at what they do."

Previous research had shown that learning is important for the older foragers, who get more efficient as they learn what flowers are producing nectar at what time. Not only did undertakers not improve in efficiency, Trumbo said, they also got in each other's way and slowed their efficiency.

Robinson had shown previously that some bees are genetically inclined to be undertakers. "We're beginning to get a clearer picture of the behavioral profiles of interesting types of specialist bees, such as undertakers," Robinson said. "Understanding the career choices of bees is a useful model for understanding behavior in general. This new information should enable us to develop new hypotheses about how neurons and genes in the brain function to produce the marvelously complex behavior seen in honey bee society."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. "Study Sheds Light On Behavior Of Middle-Age 'Undertaker' Bees." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 September 1997. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/09/970910052734.htm>.
University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. (1997, September 10). Study Sheds Light On Behavior Of Middle-Age 'Undertaker' Bees. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/09/970910052734.htm
University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. "Study Sheds Light On Behavior Of Middle-Age 'Undertaker' Bees." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/09/970910052734.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Galapagos Tortoises Bounce Back, But Ecosystem Lags

Galapagos Tortoises Bounce Back, But Ecosystem Lags

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) The Galapagos tortoise has made a stupendous recovery from the brink of extinction to a population of more than 1,000. But it still faces threats. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Drinking Milk Lead To Early Death?

Can Drinking Milk Lead To Early Death?

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) Researchers in Sweden released a study showing heavy milk drinkers face an increased mortality risk from a variety of causes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Surrounded by health care workers in the White House East Room, President Barack Obama said the U.S. will likely see additional Ebola cases in the weeks ahead. But he said the nation can't seal itself off in the fight against the disease. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Oatmeal Healthy Recipes and Benefits

Oatmeal Healthy Recipes and Benefits

Buzz60 (Oct. 29, 2014) Oatmeal is a fantastic way to start your day. Whichever way you prepare them, oats provide your body with many health benefits. In celebration of National Oatmeal Day, Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has a few recipe ideas, and tips on how to kickstart your day with this wholesome snack! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins