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 Scientists uncover the role of a protein in production & survival of myelin-forming cells
19.07.2018 | Advanced Science Research Center, GC/CUNY

nachricht NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Global study of world's beaches shows threat to protected areas

19.07.2018 | Earth Sciences

New creepy, crawly search and rescue robot developed at Ben-Gurion U

19.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Metal too 'gummy' to cut? Draw on it with a Sharpie or glue stick, science says

19.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>