Flight restriction prevents associative learning deficits but not changes in brain protein-adduct formation during honeybee ageing

Christina C. Tolfsen, Nicholas Baker, Claus Kreibich, Gro Amdam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Honeybees (Apis mellifera) senesce within 2?weeks after they discontinue nest tasks in favour of foraging. Foraging involves metabolically demanding flight, which in houseflies (Musca domestica) and fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) is associated with markers of ageing such as increased mortality and accumulation of oxidative damage. The role of flight in honeybee ageing is incompletely understood. We assessed relationships between honeybee flight activity and ageing by simulating rain that confined foragers to their colonies most of the day. After 15?days on average, flight-restricted foragers were compared with bees with normal (free) flight: one group that foraged for ~15?days and two additional control groups, for flight duration and chronological age, that foraged for ~5?days. Free flight over 15?days on average resulted in impaired associative learning ability. In contrast, flight-restricted foragers did as well in learning as bees that foraged for 5?days on average. This negative effect of flight activity was not influenced by chronological age or gustatory responsiveness, a measure of the bees' motivation to learn. Contrasting their intact learning ability, flight-restricted bees accrued the most oxidative brain damage as indicated by malondialdehyde protein adduct levels in crude cytosolic fractions. Concentrations of mono- and poly-ubiquitinated brain proteins were equal between the groups, whereas differences in total protein amounts suggested changes in brain protein metabolism connected to forager age, but not flight. We propose that intense flight is causal to brain deficits in aged bees, and that oxidative protein damage is unlikely to be the underlying mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1322-1332
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Foraging activity
  • Gustatory responsiveness
  • Malondialdehyde
  • Olfactory conditioning
  • Oxidative stress
  • Proboscis extension response
  • Senescence
  • Ubiquitin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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