Complex pleiotropy characterizes the pollen hoarding syndrome in honey bees (Apis mellifera L.)

Robert Page, M. Kim Fondrk, Olav Rueppell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The pollen hoarding syndrome consists of a large suite of correlated traits in honey bees that may have played an important role in colony organization and consequently the social evolution of honey bees. The syndrome was first discovered in two strains that have been artificially selected for high and low pollen hoarding. These selected strains are used here to further investigate the phenotypic and genetic links between two central aspects of the pollen hoarding syndrome: sucrose responsiveness and pollen hoarding. Sons of hybrid queen offspring of these two strains were tested for sucrose responsiveness and used to produce colonies with either a highly responsive or an unresponsive father. These two colony groups differed significantly in the amount of pollen stored on brood combs and with regard to their relationship between brood and pollen amounts. Additionally, four quantitative trait loci (QTL) for pollen hoarding behavior were assessed for their effect on sucrose responsiveness. Drone offspring of two hybrid queens were phenotyped for responsiveness and genotyped at marker loci for these QTL, identifying some pleiotropic effects of the QTL with significant QTL interactions. Both experiments thus provided corroborating evidence that the distinct traits of the pollen hoarding syndrome are mechanistically and genetically linked and that these links are complex and dependent on background genotype. The study demonstrates genetic worker-drone correlations within the context of the pollen hoarding syndrome and establishes that an indirect selection response connects pollen hoarding and sucrose responsiveness, regardless of which trait is directly selected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1459-1466
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Complex trait genetics
  • Division of labor
  • Genetic background
  • Pleiotropy
  • Proboscis extension reflex
  • Reproductive ground plan hypothesis
  • Social evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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