Octopamine modulates responsiveness to foraging-related stimuli in honey bees (Apis mellifera)

A. B. Barron, D. J. Schulz, G. E. Robinson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Citations (Scopus)


The biogenic amine neurochemical octopamine is involved in the onset of foraging behaviour in honey bees. We tested the hypothesis that octopamine influences honey bee behavioural development by modulating responsiveness to task-related stimuli. We examined the effect of octopamine treatment on responsiveness to brood pheromone (an activator of foraging) and to the presence of older bees in the colony (an inhibitor of foraging in young bees). Octopamine treatment increased responsiveness to brood pheromone and decreased responsiveness to social inhibition. These results identify octopamine both as an important source of variation in response thresholds and as a modulator of pheromonal communication in insect societies. We speculate that octopamine plays more than one role in the organisation of behavioural development indicating a very high level of integration between the neurochemical system and the generation of complex behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-610
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavioural development
  • Biogenic amines
  • Division of labor
  • Honey bee
  • Social insects


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