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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Baton Rouge, Louisiana » Honey Bee Lab » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #338249

Research Project: Genetics and Breeding in Support of Honey Bee Health

Location: Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Research

Title: Social immunity and the superorganism: Behavioral defenses protecting honey bee colonies from pathogens and parasites

Author
item Simone-finstrom, Michael

Submitted to: Bee World
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/14/2017
Publication Date: 4/21/2017
Citation: Simone-Finstrom, M. 2017. Social immunity and the superorganism: Behavioral defenses protecting honey bee colonies from pathogens and parasites. Bee World. 94(1):21-29. doi:10.1080/0005772X.2017.1307800.

Interpretive Summary: Honey bees have a number of traits that effectively reduce the spread of pathogens and parasites throughout the colony. Traits that reduce pathogen and parasite infection intensity and transmission at the colony-level are referred to as “social immunity.” Many mechanisms of social immunity are behavioral and include collection of antimicrobial compounds, grooming nestmates and hygienic behavior. An overview of these traits suggests how breeding efforts for these natural defenses may help improve colony health and productivity.

Technical Abstract: Honey bees (Apis mellifera) have a number of traits that effectively reduce the spread of pathogens and parasites throughout the colony. These mechanisms of social immunity are often analogous to the individual immune system. As such social immune defences function to protect the colony or superorganism. Some traits involved in social immunity can be statically or constitutively expressed at the colony level as a first line of defence (e.g. multiple mating of the queen), while others are highly induced or activated upon exposure to parasites and pathogens (e.g. social fever or absconding). Various defences fall along this broad continuum and can have background-level effects (e.g., task allocation) and can also be induced (e.g. use of propolis or grooming of nestmates). An overview of these traits suggests how breeding efforts for these natural defences may help improve colony health and productivity.