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Title: Defending the hive: social mechanisms complement individual immunity in honey bees

item Simone-Finstrom, Michael

Submitted to: International Congress of Entomology
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/20/2016
Publication Date: 9/25/2016
Citation: Simone-Finstrom, M. 2016. Defending the hive: social mechanisms complement individual immunity in honey bees. International Congress of Entomology.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Honey bees live in large colonies (~50,000 individuals), but sociality has both costs and benefits. In some ways, social life enables individuals within colonies to better fend off pathogens and parasites than if they were solitary. However, an environment with many genetically related individuals in a close space creates opportunities for invaders to infest this large supply of hosts. Social insects have developed a suite of defenses, both at the individual level (e.g., encapsulation, antimicrobial peptides) and group level (e.g., grooming of nestmates). Understanding the evolution of immunity of individuals has been of great interest. It is possible that a deemphasis on individual immunity has been compensated by the evolution of defenses at the colony level. These group-level defenses—known as social immunity—emerge from collective behaviors of individuals that arise to resist infection. Research will be presented regarding the effects of multiple parasite-resistance mechanisms on honey bee colony health and productivity and how bees are able to compensate for an experimentally-induced reduction in individual immunity. There is a paucity of information concerning how the suite of individual and social defenses interact to affect parasite transmission and colony fitness. Since multiple defenses can act against the same parasite, how do colonies invest in these differing defenses? Furthermore, are there strong benefits (or even costs) to expressing multiple defenses at the individual and colony levels? These are important questions in the basic biology of social insects and the evolution of immune defense that also have significant implications to the beekeeping industry.