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

J Comp Physiol A. 1998 Apr;182(4):489-500. doi: 10.1007/s003590050196.


Honey bee foragers were tested for their proboscis extension response (PER) to water and varying solutions of sucrose. Returning pollen and nectar foragers were collected at the entrance of a colony and were assayed in the laboratory. Pollen foragers had a significantly higher probability of responding to water and to lower concentrations of sucrose. Bees derived from artificially selected high- and low-pollen-hoarding strains were also tested using the proboscis extension assay. Returning foragers were captured and tested for PERs0 to 30% sucrose. Results demonstrated a genotypic effect on PERs of returnining foragers. The PERs of departing high- and low-strain foragers were consistent with those of returning foragers. The PERs were related to nectar and water reward perception of foragers. High strain bees were more likely to return with loads of water and lower concentrations of sucrose than foragers from low pollen strain. Low-strain bees were more likely to return empty. We identified a previously mapped genomic region that contains a variable quantitative trait locus that appears to influence sucrose response thresholds. These studies demonstrate a gene-brain-behavior pathway that can be altered as a consequence of colony-level selection for quantities of stored food.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / genetics
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Genotype*
  • Pollen
  • Sucrose / pharmacology*
  • Taste / genetics*
  • Taste Threshold / physiology*


  • Sucrose