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March 18, 2014

Honeybees in hive

Honeybees in their hive. A research study found that some honeybees are more likely than others to seek adventure. The brains of these novelty-seeking bees exhibit distinct patterns of gene activity in molecular pathways known to be associated with thrill-seeking in humans. These bees are more likely to scout for new food sources and nesting sites.

Previously, honeybee hives were thought to be highly regimented colonies of seemingly interchangeable workers taking on a few specific roles, such as nurse or forager, to serve their queen. But findings from the study, by Gene Robinson, a University of Illinois entomology professor and director of the Institute for Genomic Biology, and colleagues, show that individual honeybees actually differ in their desire or willingness to perform particular tasks, possibly due in part to variability in the bees personalities.

"There is a gold standard for personality research and that is if you show the same tendency in different contexts, then that can be called a personality trait, Robinson said. Not only do certain bees exhibit signs of novelty-seeking, but their willingness or eagerness to go the extra mile can be vital to the life of the hive," he adds. "Our results say that novelty-seeking in humans and other vertebrates have parallels in an insect. One can see the same sort of consistent behavioral differences and molecular underpinnings."

The National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Illinois Sociogenomics Initiative supported this research.

To learn more, see the news story Insects have personalities too, research on honey bees indicates. (Date of Image: 2011)


Credit: L. Brian Stauffer, University of Illinois News Bureau

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