Behavioral and life-history components of division of labor in honey bees (Apis mellifera L.)

Ernesto Guzmán-Novoa, Robert E. Page, Norman E. Gary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Variability exists among worker honey bees for components of division of labor. These components are of two types, those that affect foraging behavior and those that affect life-history characteristics of workers. Variable foraging behavior components are: the probability that foraging workers collect (1) pollen only; (2) nectar only; and (3) pollen and nectar on the same trip. Life history components are: (1) the age the workers initiate foraging behavior; (2) the length of the foraging life of a worker; and (3) worker length of life. We show how these components may interact to change the social organization of honey bee colonies and the lifetime foraging productivity of individual workers. Selection acting on foraging behavior components may result in changes in the proportion of workers collecting pollen and nectar. Selection acting on life-history components may affect the size of the foraging population and the distribution of workers between within nest and foraging activities. We suggest that these components define possible sociogenic "pathways" through which colony-level natural selection can change social organization. These pathways may be analogous to developmental pathways in the morphogenesis of individual organisms because small changes in behavioral or life history components of individual workers may lead to major changes in the organizational structure of colonies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-409
Number of pages293
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 1994


  • Apis mellifera
  • Division of labor
  • Genetics
  • Social insects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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