Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New pheromone creates buzz about the clout of older bees

30.11.2004


A recent discovery unveils the chemical secret that gives old bees the authority to keep young bees home babysitting instead of going out on the town.



A hard-to-detect pheromone explains a phenomenon Michigan State University entomologist Zachary Huang published 12 years ago – that somehow older forager bees exert influence over the younger nurse bees in a hive, keeping them grounded until they are more mature, and thus more ready to handle the demands of buzzing about.

The work that identifies the chemical, "Regulation of Behavioral Maturation in Honey Bees by a New Primer Pheromone" is publishing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science Biological Sciences, Population Biology, Early Edition the week of Nov. 29. "If the older ones don’t keep them in check, the young ones can mature too quickly," Huang said. "It’s kind of the same thing as with people, you need the elders to check on the young, even if the young are physically able to go out on their own, it’s not the best situation for anybody and now we know how it works."


Huang worked with a team that spanned from the United States, France and Canada to explain how the bees kept an exquisitely consistent balance between the ones that go out to collect nectar and pollen and defend the hive, and those that stay home and nurture the larvae. Huang had documented that this balance is controlled by the elder bees, those that typically spend the final one to three weeks of their five-week lifespan out in the field.

Experiments showed that if a significant number of forager bees didn’t come home, the young nurse bees would mature ahead of schedule and head out to become foragers themselves. If the older bees were kept inside more than usual – as in an extended rain shower – fewer young bees would mature, but instead stick to brood care.

But the question was always, why? Pheromones are a chemical signal emitted by animals, insects and humans. Some, called releaser pheromones, are like a quick conversation that changes behavior, such as those that inspire sexual attraction.

Since releasers change behaviors immediately, they historically have been easier to identify. Hundreds of releaser pheromones have been chemically identified, whereas only four (including this new one) have been identified as primer pheromones. Primer pheromones are more difficult to work with because they imparts behavioral changes in a much longer time scale, taking days or sometimes weeks to see an effect.

Huang and his associates spent years futilely searching for a primer pheromone. After many dead ends, the group came upon a crucial difference between forager bees and nurse bees: Forager bees carry a mother load of a chemical called ethyl oleate in the abdominal reservoir in which they store nectar. That, Huang said, led them to identify ethyl oleate as another kind of pheromone – called primer pheromone.

Forager bees load up on ethyl oleate when they’re buzzing about gathering food, but don’t digest it. The forager bees feed the chemical to the worker bees, and the ethyl oleate keeps them in a teenage state, sort of like being grounded to watch the younger siblings.

As the old bees die off, the chemical no longer is fed to nurse bees. Eliminate ethyl oleate and the bees mature into forager. "This provides clear insight into how a bee colony works," said Gene Robinson, G. William Arends professor of integrative biology and director of the neuroscience program at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. "What’s most impressive about a honey bee colony is it is able to respond to changing conditions and alter its division of labor. When you think of that type of flexibility and adaptability, you immediately think, ’who’s in charge’? People from many scientific and engineering endeavors are fascinated by localized decentralized decision making."

Huang said the system makes sense for the health of the hive. Young bees – those in the first two to three weeks of life – are biologically better suited for brood care, thanks to some boosted blood protein. Bees forced out too early aren’t great navigators, and since foraging is dangerous, they risk dying before their time. "Our idea has never been disproved, but the lack of mechanism drove me crazy," said Huang. "Now we know the specific chemical that controls the behavior of honey bees for the good of the whole population."

In addition to Huang and Robinson, the paper’s authors are Isabelle Leoncini, Yves Le Conte, Didier Crauser, Guy Costagliola and Jean-Marc Bécard, of the National Institute of Agricultural Research in Avignon, France; Mianwei Wang, Erika Plettner and Keith Slessor of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada; and Amy Toth of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Zachary Huang | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.msu.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University

nachricht Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Periodic ventilation keeps more pollen out than tilted-open windows

29.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

Researchers discover dust plays prominent role in nutrients of mountain forest ecoystems

29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

OLED production facility from a single source

29.03.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>