The effect of genotype, age, sex, and caste on response thresholds to sucrose and foraging behavior of honey bees (Apis mellifera L.)

J Comp Physiol A. 1999 Aug;185(2):207-13. doi: 10.1007/s003590050379.


Bees derived from artificially selected high- and low-pollen-hoarding strains were tested for their proboscis extension reflex response to water and varying sucrose concentrations. High-strain bees had a lower response threshold to sucrose than low-strain bees among pre-foragers, foragers, queens and drones. Pre-foraging low-strain workers showed ontogenetic changes in their response threshold to sucrose which was inversely related to age. High-strain foragers were more likely to return with loads of water compared to low-strain foragers. Whereas low-strain foragers were more likely to return with loads of nectar. Low-strain nectar foragers collected nectar with significantly higher sucrose concentrations than did the high-strain nectar foragers. Alternatively, low-strain foragers were more likely to return empty compared to high-strain foragers. These studies demonstrate how a genotypically varied sensory-physiological process, the perception of sucrose, are associated with a division of labor for foraging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Bees / genetics*
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Differential Threshold
  • Feeding Behavior / drug effects*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Male
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Pollen*
  • Reflex / drug effects
  • Reflex / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Solutions
  • Sucrose / pharmacology*


  • Solutions
  • Sucrose