The defence of a society often requires that some specialized members coordinate to repel a threat at personal risk. This is especially true for honey bee guards, which defend the hive and may sacrifice their lives upon stinging. Central to this cooperative defensive response is the sting alarm pheromone, which has isoamyl acetate (IAA) as its main component. Although this defensive behaviour has been well described, the neural mechanisms triggered by IAA to coordinate stinging have long remained unknown. Here we show that IAA upregulates brain levels of serotonin and dopamine, thereby increasing the likelihood of an individual bee to attack and sting. Pharmacological enhancement of the levels of both amines induces higher defensive responsiveness, while decreasing them via antagonists decreases stinging. Our results thus uncover the neural mechanism by which an alarm pheromone recruits individuals to attack and repel a threat, and suggest that the alarm pheromone of honey bees acts on their response threshold rather than as a direct trigger.
|Number of pages||9|
|Journal||Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences|
|Publication status||Published - 31 Jan 2018|
- honey bee
- alarm pheromone