Foraging in honeybees is energetically demanding. Here, we examined whether stressors, which generally increase metabolic demands, can impair foraging performance. A controlled non-pathogenic stressor (immune challenge) resulted in a change in the foraging preferences of bees. It reduced pollen foraging and increased the duration of trips in pollen foragers. Stress also reduced the amount of octopamine in the brain of pollen foragers (a biogenic amine involved in the regulation of foraging and flight behaviour in insects). According to the literature, flight metabolic rate is higher during pollen foraging than during nectar foraging, and nectar gives a higher energetic return relative to the foraging effort when compared with pollen. We thus propose that stress might be particularly detrimental to the performance of pollen foragers, and stressed bees prefer the energy-rich resource of nectar. In conclusion, stress, even at low levels, could have consequences for bee foraging behaviour and thereby the nutritional balance of the colony.
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- immune challenge
- Biogenic amine
- radio-frequency identification device