Response thresholds to sucrose predict foraging division of labor in honeybees

Tanya Pankiw, Robert E. Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

180 Scopus citations


Division of labor, where thousands of individuals perform specific behavioral acts repeatedly and nonrandomly, is the hallmark of insect societies. Virtually nothing is known about the underlying neurophysiological processes that direct individuals into specific behavioral roles. We demonstrate that sensory-physiological variation in the perception of sucrose in honeybees measured when they are 1 week old correlates with their foraging behavior 2-3 weeks later. Workers with the lowest response thresholds became water foragers, followed with increasing response thresholds by pollen foragers, nectar foragers, bees collecting both pollen and nectar, and finally those returning to the colony empty (water<pollen<nectar<both<empty). Sucrose concentrations of nectar loads were positively correlated with response thresholds measured on 1-week-old bees. These results demonstrated how the variable response thresholds of a sensory-physiological process, the perception of sucrose, is causally linked to the division of labor of foraging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-267
Number of pages3
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavior
  • Foraging
  • Honeybee
  • Neuroethology
  • Response thresholds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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