Honey bee (Apis mellifera) sociability and nestmate affiliation are dependent on the social environment experienced post-eclosion

Susie E. Hewlett, Deborah M. Wareham, Andrew B. Barron*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    9 Citations (Scopus)
    59 Downloads (Pure)


    Underpinning the formation of a social group is the motivation of individuals to aggregate and interact with conspecifics, termed sociability. Here, we developed an assay, inspired by vertebrate approaches to evaluate social behaviours, to simultaneously examine the development of honey bee (Apis mellifera) sociability and nestmate affiliation. Focal bees were placed in a testing chamber which was separated from groups of nestmates and conspecific nonnestmates by single-layer mesh screens. Assessing how much time bees spent contacting the two mesh screens allowed us to quantify simultaneously how much bees sought proximity and interaction with other bees and their preference for nestmates over non-nestmates. Both sociability and nestmate affiliation could be detected soon after emergence as an adult. Isolation early in adult life impaired honey bee sociability but there was no evidence for a critical period for the development of the trait, as isolated bees exposed to their hive for 24 h when as old as 6 days still recovered high levels of sociability. Our data show that, even for advanced social insects, sociability is a developmental phenomenon and experience dependent.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number173054
    Pages (from-to)1-8
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2018

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • social insect
    • group cohesion
    • nestmate recognition
    • isolation
    • aggregation


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