Temporal polyethism and behavioural canalization in the honey bee, Apis mellifera

Nicholas W. Calderone, Robert E. Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Two models of temporal polyethism in the honey bee were evaluated. The developmental-programme model asserts a causal relationship between age and task performance. The foraging-for-work model asserts that this relationship is an epiphenomenon associated with a self-organizing system. The effect of a worker's pre-foraging environment on task selection as a forager was also examined. Four groups of workers, emerging at 6-day intervals, were introduced to a colony. Workers in group 1 were introduced when less than 12 h old. Workers in groups 2 and 3 were divided into deprived and non-deprived groups. Non-deprived groups were introduced to the colony when less than 12 h old. Deprived groups were confined to an incubator for 12 days and 6 days, respectively, then introduced to the colony along with group 4 (< 12 h old). Foraging activities were quantified for two sets of workers from strains of bees selected for high and low pollen hoarding. The results support the developmental-programme model. Non-deprived workers began foraging in the order that they were introduced. Deprived workers from groups 2 and 3 began to forage before younger workers in group 4, even though all three groups were introduced to the colony at the same time. The results also suggest that a forager's task selection is primarily determined by her genotype and immediate environment. High-strain workers collected pollen more often than low-strain workers, regardless of their pre-foraging environments. Differences between deprived and non-deprived groups of the same strain and age were rare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-643
Number of pages13
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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