Octopamine (OA) and juvenile hormone (JH) are implicated in the regulation of age-based division of labor in the honeybee, Apis mellifera. We tested the hypothesis that these two neuroendocrine signals influence task-associated plasticity in circadian and diurnal rhythms, and in brain expression of the clock gene period (per). Treatment with OA, OA antagonist (epinastine), or both, did not affect the age at onset of circadian rhythmicity or the free running period in constant darkness (DD). Young bees orally treated with OA in light-dark (LD) illumination regime for 6 days followed by DD showed reduced alpha (the period between the daily onset and offset of activity) during the first 4 days in LD and the first 4 days in DD. Oral treatment with OA, epinastine, or both, but not manipulations of JH levels, caused increased average daily levels and aberrant patterns of brain per mRNA oscillation in young bees. These results suggest that OA and JH do not influence the development or function of the central pacemaker but rather that OA influences the brain expression of a clock gene and characteristics of locomotor behavior that are not thought to be under direct control of the circadian pacemaker.
Social factors constitute an important component of the environment of many animals and have a profound influence on their physiology and behavior. Studies of social influences on circadian rhythms have been hampered by a methodological trade-off: automatic data acquisition systems obtain high-quality data but are effective only for individually isolated animals and therefore compromise by requiring a context that may not be sociobiologically relevant. Human observers can monitor animal activity in complex social environments but are limited in the resolution and quality of data that can be gathered. The authors developed and validated a method for prolonged, automatic, high-quality monitoring of focal honey bees in a relatively complex social environment and with minimal illumination. The method can be adapted for studies on other animals. The authors show that the system provides a reliable estimation of the actual path of a focal bee, only rarely misses its location for > I min, and removes most nonspecific signals from the background. Using this system, the authors provide the first evidence of social influence on the ontogeny of activity rhythms. Young bees that were housed with old foragers show similar to 24-h rhythms in locomotor activity at a younger age and with stronger rhythms than bees housed with a similar number of young bees. By contrast, the maturation of the hypopharyngeal glands was slower in bees housed with foragers, similar to findings in previous studies. The morphology and function of the hypopharyngeal glands vary along with age-based division of labor. Therefore, these findings indicate that social inhibition of task-related maturation was effective in the experimental setup. This study suggests that although the ontogeny of circadian rhythms is typically correlated with the age-based division of labor, their social regulation is different.
Various animals naturally switch to considerable periods of around-the-clock activity with no apparent ill effects. Such plasticity in overt circadian rhythms might be observed because the clock is masked by the influence of external factors, is uncoupled from behavioral outputs, or results from genuine plasticity in the clock machinery. We studied honeybees in which plasticity in circadian rhythms is socially modulated and associated with the division of labor. We confirm that ``nurse'' bees care for the brood around-the-clock even when experiencing a light: dark illumination regime. However, nurses transferred from the hive to individual cages in constant conditions have robust circadian rhythms in locomotor activity with an onset of activity at the subjective morning. These data indicate that circadian rhythmicity in nurses depends on their environment, and suggest that some clockwork components were entrained even in nurses active around the clock while in the hive. Brain oscillations in transcript abundance for the putative clock genes Period, Cryptochrome-m, Cycle, and Timeout were attenuated or totally suppressed in nurses as compared to behaviorally rhythmic foragers, irrespective of the illumination regime. These findings provide the first support for the hypothesis that natural plasticity in circadian rhythms is associated with reorganization of the internal clock-work.
We investigated labor- related plasticity in the circadian clock of the bumblebee Bombus terrestris. Bumblebee workers vary enormously in body size, and we found that size, division of labor, and diurnal rhythms in activity are correlated in B. terrestris colonies. Large workers typically perform foraging activities with strong diurnal rhythms and low activity at night, whereas small bees typically care for ( nurse) brood around the clock with weak or no diurnal rhythms. Under constant laboratory conditions, circadian rhythms in locomotor activity were weaker, less stable, and developed at a later age in small ( nurse- size) bees compared to their larger ( forager- size) sisters. Under a light: dark illumination regime, many small bees, particularly at a young age, were active during the dark phase, fewer small bees developed rhythms, and they did so later compared to large bees. Taken together these findings reveal naturally occurring attenuation or suppression in the circadian clock of small bees that is determined during pre- adult development. This deficiency in clock function, however, does not result in pathology but rather appears to be functionally significant, because it is associated with around- the- clock brood care activity and therefore apparently improves divisions of labor and colony efficiency. This in turn suggests that variation in social biology influences traits of the circadian clock.
Here we report the genome sequence of the honeybee Apis mellifera, a key model for social behaviour and essential to global ecology through pollination. Compared with other sequenced insect genomes, the A. mellifera genome has high A+T and CpG contents, lacks major transposon families, evolves more slowly, and is more similar to vertebrates for circadian rhythm, RNA interference and DNA methylation genes, among others. Furthermore, A. mellifera has fewer genes for innate immunity, detoxification enzymes, cuticle-forming proteins and gustatory receptors, more genes for odorant receptors, and novel genes for nectar and pollen utilization, consistent with its ecology and social organization. Compared to Drosophila, genes in early developmental pathways differ in Apis, whereas similarities exist for functions that differ markedly, such as sex determination, brain function and behaviour. Population genetics suggests a novel African origin for the species A. mellifera and insights into whether Africanized bees spread throughout the New World via hybridization or displacement.
The circadian clock of the honey bee is implicated in ecologically relevant complex behaviors. These include time sensing, time-compensated sun-compass navigation, and social behaviors such as coordination of activity, dance language communication, and division of labor. The molecular underpinnings of the bee circadian clock are largely unknown. We show that clock gene structure and expression pattern in the honey bee are more similar to the mouse than to Drosophila. The honey bee genome does not encode an ortholog of Drosophila Timeless (Tim1), has only the mammalian type Cryptochrome (Cry-m), and has a single ortholog for each of the other canonical ``clock genes.'' In foragers that typically have strong circadian rhythms, brain mRNA levels of amCry, but not amTim as in Drosophila, consistently oscillate with strong amplitude and a phase similar to amPeriod (amPer) under both light-dark and constant darkness illumination regimes. In contrast to Drosophila, the honey bee amCYC protein contains a transactivation domain and its brain transcript levels oscillate at virtually an anti-phase to amPer, as it does in the mouse. Phylogenetic analyses indicate that the basal insect lineage had both the mammalian and Drosophila types of Cry and Tim. Our results suggest that during evolution, Drosophila diverged from the ancestral insect clock and specialized in using a set of clock gene orthologs that was lost by both mammals and bees, which in turn converged and specialized in the other set. These findings illustrate a previously unappreciated diversity of insect clockwork and raise critical questions concerning the evolution and functional significance of species-specific variation in molecular clockwork.
We measured seasonal variation in the locomotor behavior of newly emerged adult honey bee workers in the laboratory. Analyses of bees from 12 colonies, 7 of which were tested once and 5 tested more than once, revealed seasonal changes in the free-running period (FRP) of the rhythm for locomotor behavior, with an increase from spring to summer. At the same time there was a decrease in the age at onset of circadian rhythmicity. There were no seasonal changes in overall levels of locomotor activity. Temperature and photoperiod, the only factors known to mediate plasticity in the insect clock, cannot account for the observed seasonal variation because bees were maintained under constant conditions. In a second experiment we found no differences in the FRP of nurses and foragers obtained from colonies maintained in a 12 h light: 12 h dark illumination regime. These findings suggest that exposure to unknown cues during preadult stages may affect the circadian behavior of adult bees.
To determine whether ecdysteroids are associated with reproductive division of labor in Bombus terrestris, we measured their levels in hemolymph and ovaries of queens and workers. Queens heading colonies had large active ovaries with high ecdysteroid content, whereas virgin gynes and mated queens before and after diapause had undeveloped ovaries with low ecdysteroid content. The hemolymph ecdysteroid titer was rather variable, but in a pooled analysis of mated queens before and after diapause versus colony-heading queens, ecdysteroid titers were higher in the latter group. In workers, agonistic behavior, ovarian activity, ovarian ecdysteroid content, and hemolymph ecdysteroid titers were positively correlated, and were lowest when a queen was present. In queenless workers, ecdysteroid levels were elevated in dominant workers, and were also influenced by the presence of brood and by group demography; hormone levels were higher in bees kept in larger groups. These findings are consistent with the premise that in B. terrestris the ovary is the primary site of ecdysteroid synthesis, and they show that ecdysteroids levels vary with the social environment. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Changes in circadian rhythms of behavior are related to age-based division of labor in honey bee colonies. The expression of the clock gene period (per) in the bee brain is associated with age-related changes in circadian rhythms of behavior, but previous efforts to firmly associate per brain expression with division of labor or age have produced variable results. We explored whether this variability was due to differences in light and flight experience, which vary with division of labor, or differences in colony environment, which are known to affect honey bee behavioral development. Our results support the hypothesis that per mRNA expression in the bee brain is developmentally regulated. One-day-old bees had the lowest levels of expression and rarely showed evidence of diurnal fluctuation, while foragers and forager-age bees (>21 days of age) always had high levels of brain per and strong and consistent diurnal patterns. Results from laboratory and field experiments do not support the hypothesis that light, flight experience, and colony type influence per expression. Our results suggest that the rate of developmental elevation in per expression is influenced by factors other than the ones studied in our experiments, and that young bees are more sensitive to these factors than foragers. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
We explored the neural basis of age- and task-related plasticity in circadian patterns of activity in the honeybee. To identify putative circadian pacemakers in the bee brain, we used antibodies against Drosophila melanogaster and Antheraea pernyi PERIOD and an antiserum to crustacean pigment-dispersing hormone (PDH) known to cross-react with insect pigment-dispersing factors (PDFs). In contrast to previous results from Drosophila, PDH and PER immunoreactivity (-ir) were not colocalized in bee neurons. The most intense PER-ir was cytoplasmic, in two groups of large neurons in the protocerebrum. The number of protocerebral PER-ir neurons and PER-ir intensity within individual cells were highest in brains collected during subjective night and higher in old bees than in young bees. These results are consistent with previous analyses of brain per mRNA in honeybees. Nuclear PER-ir was found throughout the brain, including the optic and antennal lobes. A single group of PDH-ir neurons (approximately 20/optic lobe) was consistently and intensely labeled at the medial margin of the medulla, independent of age or time of day. The processes of these neurons extended to specific neuropils in the protocerebrum and the optic lobes but not to the deutocerebrum. The patterns displayed by PER- and PDH-ir do not completely match any patterns previously described. This suggests that, although clock proteins are conserved across insect groups, there is no universal pattern of coexpression that allows ready identification of pacemaker neurons within the insect brain. J. Comp. Neurol. (C) 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Age-related division of labor in honeybees is associated with plasticity in circadian rhythms. Young nest bees care for brood around the clock with no circadian rhythms while older foragers have strong circadian rhythms that are used for sun compass navigation and for timing visits to flowers. Since juvenile hormone (JH) is involved in the coordination of physiological and behavioral processes underlying age-related division of labor in honey bees, we tested the hypothesis that JH influences the ontogeny of circadian rhythms and other clock parameters in young worker bees. Treatments with the JH analog methoprene or allatectomy did not influence the onset of rhythmicity, overall locomotor activity, or the free-running period of rhythmic locomotor behavior. There were, however, significant differences in the onset of rhythmicity, overall locomotor activity, and longevity between bees from different source colonies, suggesting that there is significant genetic variation for these traits. Our results suggest that JH does not coordinate all aspects of division of labor in bees and that coordination of task performance with circadian rhythms is probably mediated by other regulatory systems. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Young adult honey bees work inside the beehive ``nursing'' brood around the clock with no circadian rhythms; older bees forage for nectar and pollen outside with strong circadian rhythms. Previous research has shown that the development of an endogenous rhythm of activity is also seen in the laboratory in a constant environment. Newly emerging bees maintained in isolation are typically arrhythmic during the first few days of adult life and develop strong circadian rhythms by about a few days of age. In addition, average daily levels of period (per) mRNA in the brain are higher in foragers or forager-age bees (> 21 days of age) relative to young nest bees (similar to 7 days of age). The authors used social manipulations to uncouple behavioral rhythmicity, age, and task to determine the relationship between these factors and per. There was no obligate link between average daily levels of per brain mRNA and either behavioral rhythmicity or age. There also were no differences in per brain mRNA levels between nurse bees and foragers in social environments that promote precocious or reversed behavioral development. Nurses and other hive-age bees can have high or low levels of per mRNA levels in the brain, depending on the social environment, while foragers and foraging-age bees always have high levels. These findings suggest a link between honey bee foraging behavior and per up-regulation. Results also suggest task-related differences in the amplitude of per mRNA oscillation in the brain, with foragers having larger diurnal fluctuation in per than nurses, regardless of age. Taken together, these results suggest that social factors may exert potent influences on the regulation of clock genes.
A rising blood titer of juvenile hormone (JH) in adult worker honey bees is associated with the shift from working in the hive to foraging. We determined whether the JH increase occurs in anticipation of foraging or whether it is a result of actual foraging experience and/or diurnal changes in exposure to sunlight. We recorded all foraging flights of tagged bees observed at a feeder in a large outdoor flight cage. We measured JH from bees that had taken 1, 3-5, or > 100 foraging flights and foragers of indeterminate experience leaving or entering the hive. To study diurnal variation in JH, we sampled foragers every 6 h over one day. Titers of JH in foragers were high relative to nurses as in previous studies, suggesting that conditions in the flight cage had no effect on the relationship between foraging behavior and JH. Titers of JH in foragers showed no significant effects of foraging experience, but did show significant diurnal variation. Our results indicate that the high titer of JH in foragers anticipates the onset of foraging and is not affected by foraging experience, but is modulated diurnally. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
The effects of the social environment and age on juvenile hormone (JH) and reproduction were investigated by measuring ovarian development, hemolymph levels of JH III, and rates of JH biosynthesis from the same individual bumble bees (Bombus terrestris). Differences in social environment were associated with differences in rates of JH biosynthesis, JH titer and ovarian development. Young queenless workers had a higher rate of JH biosynthesis, JH titer and ovarian development than queenright (QR) workers of similar age. Dominant workers in QR colonies had a higher rate of JH biosynthesis, JH titer and ovarian development than low ranked workers of similar size. There was a positive correlation between JH titer and ovarian development, but no correlation between rate of JH biosynthesis and ovarian development or between JH biosynthesis and JH titer. Both JH titer and rate of JH biosynthesis increased with age from emergence to 3 days of age, but 6-day-old workers, egg-laying workers, and actively reproducing queens had high JH titers and highly developed ovaries but low rates of JH biosynthesis. These results show that reproduction in B. terrestris is strongly affected by the social environment and the influence of the environment on reproduction is mediated by JH. Our data also indicate that the rate of JH biosynthesis measured in vitro is not a reliable indicator of JH titer or ovarian development in B. terrestris; possible reasons are discussed. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
To begin to explore the role of biogenic amines in reproductive division of labor in social insects, brain levels of dopamine, serotonin, and octopamine were measured in bumble bee (Bombus terrestris) workers and queens that differ in behavioral and reproductive state. Levels of all three amines were similar for mated and virgin queens. Young workers that developed with or without a queen had similar amine levels, but in queenright colonies differences in biogenic amine levels were associated with differences in behavior and reproductive physiology. Dominant workers had significantly higher octopamine levels compared with workers of lower dominance status but of similar size, age, and ovary state. High dopamine levels were associated with the last stages of oocyte development irrespective of worker social status and behavior. These results suggest that biogenic amines are involved in behavioral and physiological aspects of regulation of reproduction in bumble bees.
Previous research showed that age-related division of labor in honey bees is associated with changes in activity rhythms; young adult bees perform hive tasks with no daily rhythms, whereas older bees forage with strong daily rhythms. We report that this division of labor is also associated with differences in both circadian rhythms and mRNA levels of period, a gene well known for its role in circadian rhythms. The level of period mRNA in the brain oscillated in bees of all ages, but was significantly higher at all times in foragers, Elevated period mRNA levels cannot be attributed exclusively to aging, because bees induced to forage precociously because of a change in social environment had levels similar to normal age foragers, These results extend the regulation of a ``clock gene'' to a social context and suggest that there are connections at the molecular level between division of labor and chronobiology in social insects.
The role of ecdysteroids in the regulation of dominance and reproduction in social Hymenoptera is little explored. In the current study we compared ecdysteroid titers in hemolymph of individual queen and worker bumble bees (Bombus terrestris) that differ in their behavior, reproductive status and social environment. Egg-laying queens that head colonies and have ovaries exhibiting all stages of follicle development, had a higher ecdysteroid titer than virgin queens whose ovaries contained only follicles at initial stages. In workers, the relationship between ecdysteroid titers and follicle development appears to be more complex and to be influenced by the bee's social status and social environment. Shortly after emergence, young workers had only follicles at the initial stages of oogenesis and they exhibited a low ecdysteroid titer. No significant, correlation was detected between ovary status and ecdysteroid titer in workers, with some workers showing activated ovaries but low ecdysteroid titers. However, at six days of age, a trend towards higher ecdysteroid titer was observed for workers in queenless groups, a condition characterized by rapid follicle development relative to queenright conditions. In these queenless groups, high social status was associated with high ecdysteroid titers. By contrast, in queenright workers ecdysteroid titers were low, even for bees with presumably high social status that had activated ovaries and were observed performing oviposition behavior. This study suggests that ecdysteroids are involved in regulation of reproduction in B. terrestris. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Endocrine analyses were used to investigate the well-known association between queen production and the onset of worker reproduction (termed the competition phase, CPh) in Bombus terrestris. Larvae that reached the age of 5 days before the CPh had a worker-like profile: low juvenile hormone (JH) biosynthesis rates and low JH hemolymph titers. In contrast, larvae that reached the age of 5 days during the CPh had a queen-like profile: high JH biosynthesis rates and high hemolymph JH levels. Larval fate could be manipulated by transplanting egg cells into host colonies with different social structures. There was a steep rise in JH production in larvae transplanted into colonies near or during the CPh. This indicates that during colony development, larvae switch from the ``worker developmental pathway'' to the ``queen developmental pathway,'' and that the switch is socially regulated. In small rearing groups, larvae reared with queens before the CPh developed into workers, whereas those reared with queens after the CPh developed into queens. Variation in worker type (naive or experienced) did not affect caste determination. Therefore, we hypothesize that queens produce a pheromone that directly inhibits queen differentiation by larvae. We also present two alternative scenarios that explain the timing of gyne production in B. terrestris, one based on ecological constraints and the other based on queen-worker competition.
Possible pheromonal control of worker reproduction was tested in Bombus terrestris. The mode of assay included exposure of callow workers to extracts originating from different queen parts and measuring the effect on the in vitro biosynthesis of juvenile hormone (JH), the apparent gonadotropin in this species. Both queen total body extracts applied to dummies consisting of oven-dried or Soxhlet-washed virgin queen bodies and cuticular washes applied to living virgin queens effectively inhibited the biosynthesis of JH in callow workers. None of the five exocrine glands (mandibular, hypopharyngeal, salivary, Dufour's, and tarsal) demonstrated inhibitory activity. Likewise, the use of synthetic 3-hydroxy acids, found in queen mandibular glands, were ineffective in blocking JH biosynthesis in queenless workers. The results suggest that the queen may use a primer pheromone spread on me epicuticle as a means to inhibit worker reproduction. However, our results are not consistent with the prevailing hypothesis that in B. terrestris the main source of the pheromone that inhibits worker reproduction is in the queen's mandibular glands.