Trophallaxis in the honeybee, Apis mellifera : the interaction between viscosity and sucrose concentration of the transferred solution

Anim Behav. 1999 Jun;57(6):1319-1326. doi: 10.1006/anbe.1999.1110.


Trophallaxis by honeybee foragers was studied under the experimental conditions of an arena. The behaviour of pairs of bees, one (donor) fed with 50-&mgr;l sucrose solutions and another unfed recipient, was analysed as a function of the sucrose concentration, the concentration at constant viscosity (kept constant by adding tylose, an inert polysaccharide), and of the viscosity of a 30% sucrose solution. By increasing the concentration of solutions, the rate at which the solution was transferred to recipient bees (transfer rate of solution, in &mgr;l/s) increased up to a maximum value for 30% sucrose solution, and decreased beyond this concentration (concentration experiment). At constant viscosity, no modulation was observed for the lower sugar concentration range (10-30%), while the transfer rate of solution clearly increased beyond 30% (concentration experiment at constant viscosity). For the 30% sucrose solution, the transfer rate decreased with increasing viscosity (viscosity experiment). If only the sucrose compound is comparatively analysed, the transfer rate of sucrose (in mg/s) increased similarly in the first two experiments. These results give behavioural evidence suggesting that donor bees are capable of modulating the trophallactic food transfer as related to the sucrose concentrations carried into their crops within a considerable wide range, but viscosity prevents it. It also suggests that trophallactic transfer rate does not depend on abdominal volume, for even when all donor bees attained similar loads (50 &mgr;l), transfer rate of solution increased along with the offered sucrose concentration. Results are discussed in relation to the information exchange performed in the foraging context displayed by foragers. Copyright 1999 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.