Genotype and task influence stinging response thresholds of honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) workers of African and European descent


The stinging response thresholds of individual European and Africanized worker honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) were analyzed. Workers of each genotype performing defense (guard and soldier bees) and non-defense (nest and forager bees) associated tasks were collected and exposed to an electric stimulus of 0.5 mA, and the time they took to sting a leather substrate was recorded. Africanized bees had significant lower thresholds of response than European bees. Guards and soldiers were faster to sting than nest and forager bees for the Africanized genotype, whereas for the European genotype, guards stung significantly faster than bees of the other three task groups. This is the first study that shows that individual bees specialized in two defensive tasks also have a lower response threshold for stinging. Our results fit a model of division of labor based on differences in response thresholds to stimuli among workers of different genotypes and task groups.

Share and Cite:

Uribe-Rubio, J. , Petukhova, T. and Guzman-Novoa, E. (2013) Genotype and task influence stinging response thresholds of honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) workers of African and European descent. Open Journal of Ecology, 3, 279-283. doi: 10.4236/oje.2013.34032.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Robinson, G.E. (1992) Regulation of division of labor in insect societies. Annual Review of Entomology, 37, 637-665. doi:10.1146/annurev.en.37.010192.003225
[2] Page, R.E. and Erber, J. (2002) Levels of behavioral organization and the evolution of division of labor. Naturwissenschaften, 89, 91-106. doi:10.1007/s00114-002-0299-x
[3] Breed, M.D., Guzmán-Novoa, E. and Hunt, G.J. (2004) Defensive behavior of honey bees: Organization, genetics, and comparisons with other bees. Annual Review of Entomology, 49, 271-298. doi:10.1146/annurev.ento.49.061802.123155
[4] Breed, M.D., Robinson, G.E. and Page, R.E. (1990) Division of labor during honey bee colony defense. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, 27, 395-401. doi:10.1007/BF00164065
[5] Guzmán-Novoa, E., Hunt, G.J., Uribe-Rubio, J.L. and Prieto-Merlos, D. (2004) Genotypic effects of honey bee (Apis mellifera) defensive behavior at the individual and colony levels: The relationship of guarding, pursuing and stinging. Apidologie, 35, 15-24. doi:10.1051/apido:2003061
[6] Hunt, G.J., Guzmán-Novoa, E., Fondrk, M.K. and Page, R.E. (1998) Quantitative trait loci for honeybee stinging behavior and body size. Genetics, 148, 1203-1213.
[7] Guzmán-Novoa, E., Hunt, G.J., Uribe-Rubio, J.L., Smith, C. and Arechavaleta-Velasco, M.E. (2002) Confirmation of QTL effects and evidence of genetic dominance of honeybee defensive behavior: Results of colony and individual behavioral assays. Behavioral Genetics, 32, 95-102. doi:10.1023/A:1015245605670
[8] Arechavaleta-Velasco, M.E., Hunt, G.J. and Emore, C. (2003) Quantitative trait loci that influence the expression of guarding and stinging behaviors of individual honey bees. Behavioral Genetics, 33, 357-364. doi:10.1023/A:1023458827643
[9] Arechavaleta-Velasco, M.E. and Hunt, G.J. (2004) Binary trait loci that influence honey bee guarding behavior. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 97, 177-183. doi:10.1023/A:1023458827643
[10] Collins, A.M., Rinderer, T.E., Harbo, J.R. and Bolten, A.B. (1982) Colony defense by Africanized and European honeybees. Science, 218, 72-74. doi:10.1126/science.218.4567.72
[11] Guzmán-Novoa, E. and Page, R.E. (1994) Genetic dominance and worker interactions affect honeybee colony defense. Behavioral Ecology, 5, 91-97. doi:10.1093/beheco/5.1.91
[12] Uribe-Rubio, J.L., Guzmán-Novoa, E., Hunt, G.J., Correa-Benitez, A. and Zozaya, R.J.A. (2003) Effect of Africanization on honey production, defensive behavior and size in honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) of the Mexican high plateau. Veterinaria Mexico, 34, 47-59.
[13] Winston, M.L. (1987) The biology of the Honeybee. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
[14] Kolmes, S.A. and Fergusson-Kolmes, L.A. (1989) Measurements of stinging behaviour in individual worker honeybees (Apis mellifera L.). Journal of Apicultural Research, 28, 71-78.
[15] Paxton, R.J., Sakamoto, C.H. and Rugiga, F.C.N. (1994) Modification of honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) stinging behaviour by within-colony environment and age. Journal of Apicultural Research, 33, 75-82.
[16] Lenoir, J.C., Laloi, D., Dechaume-Moncharmont, F.X., Solignac, M. and Pham, M.H. (2006) Intra-colonial variation of the sting extension response in the honey bee Apis mellifera. Insectes Sociaux, 53, 80-85. doi:10.1007/s00040-005-0838-5
[17] Uribe-Rubio, J.L., Guzmán-Novoa, E., Vázquez-Peláez, C. and Hunt, G.J. (2008) Genotype, task specialization, and nest environment influence the stinging response thresholds of individual Africanized and European honeybees to electrical stimulation. Behavioral Genetics, 38, 93-100. doi:10.1007/s10519-007-9177-9
[18] Nielsen, D.I., Ebert, P.R., Hunt, G.J., Guzmán-Novoa, E., Kinnee, S.A. and Page, R.E. (1999) Identification of Africanized honey bees (hymenoptera: Apidae) incorporating morphometrics and an improved PCR mitotyping procedure. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 92, 167-174.
[19] Alaux, C., Sinha, S., Hasadsri, L., Hunt, G.J., Guzman-Novoa, E., DeGrandi-Hoffman, G., Uribe-Rubio, J.L., Southey, B.R., Rodriguez-Zas, S. and Robinson, G.E. (2009) Honey bee aggression supports a link between gene regulation and behavioral evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 106, 15400-15405. doi:10.1073/pnas.0907043106
[20] Robinson, G.E. and Page, R.E. (1988) Genetic determination of guarding and undertaking in honey-bee colonies. Nature, 333, 356-358. doi:10.1038/333356a0
[21] Hunt, G.J., Guzmán-Novoa, E., Uribe-Rubio, J.L. and Prieto-Merlos, D. (2003) Genotype by environment interactions in honey bee guarding behavior. Animal Behavior, 66, 469-477. doi:10.1006/anbe.2003.2253
[22] Guzman-Novoa, E., Correa-Benítez, A., Guzmán, G. and Espinoza-Montano, L.G. (2011) Colonization, impact and control of Africanized honey bees in Mexico. Veterinaria Mexico, 42, 149-178

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.