Bees show great plasticity in behavioral development, accelerating, delaying, or even reversing their trajectories in response to the needs of their colony. Our research has demonstrated that how fast a bee grows up and becomes a forager is regulated with exquisite complexity. The primary factor seems to be the age structure of the colony, as older bees inhibit behavioral development in younger bees. A search is underway for the precise mechanisms involved here; chemical communication is suspected. Starvation also speeds up maturation; whether this is a separate mechanism or related to the social inhibition of older bees is under investigation. We also have learned that pheromones produced by the queen and the brood delay maturation, which might improve the phase of life devoted to nursing the brood.Representative Publications
LeConte Y, Areski M, Robinson GE (2001) Primer effects of a brood pheromone on honey bee behavioral development. Proc. Royal Soc. 268:163-168.
Huang Z-Y, Plettner E, Robinson GE (1998) Effects of social environment and worker mandibular glands on endocrine-mediated behavioral development in honey bees. J. Comp. Physiol. A 183:143-152. (pdf)