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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Octopamine modulates honey bee dance behavior

Authors
item Barron, Andrew - AUSTRALIAN NATL. UNIV.
item Maleszka, Ryszard - AUSTRALIAN NATL. UNIV.
item Vander Meer, Robert
item Robinson, Gene - UNIV. ILLINOIS URBANA

Submitted to: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 18, 2006
Publication Date: January 19, 2007
Repository URL: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0610506104
Citation: Barron, A.B., Maleszka, R., Vander Meer, R.K., Robinson, G.E. 2007. Octopamine modulates honey bee dance behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 104(5):1703-1707.

Interpretive Summary: Biogenic amines play an important role in insect behavior by controlling the sensitivity of those insects to various stimuli, such as pheromones and food resources that are extremely important in maintaining the social structure and colony health of social insects, such as ants and honey bees. Linking behavioural responses to changing levels of biogenic amines is critical to understanding how these compounds function. Scientists at the Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, USDA, ARS, Gainesville, Florida USA, the Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia, and the Department of Entomology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, investigated the relationship between biogenic amine levels and the elaborate dance language used by honey bees to communicate resource location and resource value to their nestmates. The results allow us to propose that biogenic amine, octopamine, levels modulate the representation of the “value” of floral rewards in dances by changing the processing of reward in the honey bee brain. Octopamine is known to modulate appetitive behavior in a range of non-social insects, and the role of octopamine in the honey bee dance provides an example of how neuro-regulating, biogenic amines can be adapted for new behavioral innovations in the context of social insects, i.e. honey bees and likely others, such as fire ants.

Technical Abstract: Honey bees communicate the location and desirability of valuable forage sites to their nest mates via an elaborate, symbolic ‘dance language’. The dance language is a uniquely complex communication system in invertebrates, and the neural mechanisms that generate dances are largely unknown. Here we show that treatments with controlled doses of the biogenic amine neuromodulator octopamine selectively increased the reporting of resource value in dances by forager bees. Oral and topical octopamine treatments modulated aspects of dances related to resource profitability in a dose-dependent manner. Dances for pollen and sucrose responded similarly to octopamine treatment, and these effects were eliminated by treatment with the octopamine antagonist mianserin. We propose that octopamine modulates the representation of floral rewards in dances by changing the processing of reward in the honey bee brain. Octopamine is known to modulate appetitive behavior in a range of solitary insects, and the role of octopamine in dance provides an example of how neural substrates can be adapted for new behavioral innovations in the process of social evolution.

Last Modified: 12/26/2014
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