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. 2012 Oct 24;3(4):1084-92.
doi: 10.3390/insects3041084.

Insulin Modifies Honeybee Worker Behavior

Free PMC article

Insulin Modifies Honeybee Worker Behavior

Christine M Mott et al. Insects. .
Free PMC article


The insulin signaling pathway has been hypothesized to play a key role in regulation of worker social insect behavior. We tested whether insulin treatment has direct effects on worker honeybee behavior in two contexts, sucrose response thresholds in winter bees and the progression to foraging by summer nurse bees. Treatment of winter worker bees with bovine insulin, used as a proxy for honeybee insulin, increased the bees' sucrose response threshold. Treatment of summer nurse bees with bovine insulin significantly decreased the age at which foraging was initiated. This work provides further insight into the role of endocrine controls in behavior of in honeybees and insects in general.

Keywords: Apis mellifera; division of labor; foraging; honeybee; insulin; sucrose response threshold.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Sucrose response threshold of winter honeybee workers. The two types of controls, untreated and sham treated, did not differ significantly and are grouped together in the figure. NR = no response. There is a significant difference between the sucrose response thresholds of the controls (a, n = 60) and insulin treatments (b, n = 31) (X2 = 6.4532, p = 0.040).
Figure 2
Figure 2
Cumulative fraction plot for Kolmogorov-Smirnov comparison of nurse bees treated with 1 microliter of insulin (solid line) and sham control nurse bees (dashed line). The Y-axis is the cumulative frequency of bees that foraged on a given day post-injection. The plot shows a significant difference in number of days to foraging, as measured by extended flight activity, between treatment with one microliter of insulin (solid line, n = 23) and sham-treatment with 1 microliter of buffer solution (dotted black line, n = 23) nurse bees (KS Test values D = 0.4783, p-value = 0.010, bootstrap p‑value = 0.004). The mean time to forage among untreated bees was 3.4 days, and the mean time to forage for treated bees was 1.6 days post-injection, indicating that insulin accelerated foraging behavior in treated bees by nearly two days.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Protein alignments for Apis mellifera (A.m.), Bos taurus (B.t.), and Rattus norvegicus (R.n.), demonstrating highly conserved sequence among insulin-like peptides among multiple taxa. Plus signs indicate areas of substitution to a functionally similar amino acid.

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