Starving honey bees lose self-control

January 29, 2015, The Royal Society
Starving honey bees lose self-control
A study finds that hungry bees are more impulsive Credit: coniferconifer licensed under CCBY2.0

A study in the journal of the Royal Society Biology Letters has found that starving bees lose their self-control and act impulsively, choosing small immediate rewards over waiting for larger rewards.

Small animals with high metabolic rates need to eat more often than big animals and so are more likely to act impulsively, seeking immediate rewards to avoid starving to death. However, self-control is vital for social groups to function harmoniously.

For this presents an interesting paradox, say the team behind the study, because bees are small with high metabolic rates, but also live in social colonies necessitating that they act with self-control. They set out to figure out whether a bee's individual energetic states or its social environment drive its behaviour.

The scientists first trained a group of bees to associate different odours with 2 rewards; 1 scent with a large reward of sugar solution and 1 with a small reward of the same solution. The bees had to wait 1 second for the small reward and 5 for the large reward. For bees in a control trial there was no delay between the odour and the reward.

After training the bees, their preferences were tested after 6, 18 and 24 hours of starvation. The team presented the odours on opposite sides of the bees' heads and recorded whether they turned toward the scent of the small or the large reward. When the large reward was associated with a delay the bees' preference for it decreased the hungrier they got.

The team also tested the chemicals in the bees' brains and found that levels of dopamine in the brains of bees that were starved for 24 hours were significantly higher than those who had only been starved for 18 hours. The results show that honeybees can maintain self-control when they aren't hungry but become more impulsive with starvation which corresponds to an increase in dopamine levels.

'The reason a bee can be expected to display self-control under normal circumstances is not necessarily because it is for the 'good of the society', but because it is generally satiated in those settings and is not at risk of starvation despite its ' say the team. They add that perhaps having access to food from a build-up of communal stores has promoted in .

Explore further: Bees capable of learning feats with tasty prize in sight

More information: Starving honeybees lose self-control, rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.or … .1098/rsbl.2014.0820

Related Stories

Research helps steer mites from bees

September 19, 2014

A Simon Fraser University chemistry professor has found a way to sway mites from their damaging effects on bees that care and feed the all-important queen bee.

Research shows bees might create cognitive maps

June 3, 2014

(Phys.org) —How do bees find their way home? Until now, scientists thought bees navigated by calculating their position relative to that of the sun. Randolf Menzel of the Free University of Berlin and colleagues tested ...

Diet affects pesticide resistance in honey bees

November 3, 2014

Feeding honey bees a natural diet of pollen makes them significantly more resistant to pesticides than feeding them an artificial diet, according to a team of researchers, who also found that pesticide exposure causes changes ...

Bees are good informers

September 9, 2011

Honeybees can do far more than simply pollinate plants or make honey. The busy creatures also make excellent environmental monitors. This has been demonstrated by Wageningen UR bee researcher Sjef van der Steen. He used ...

Recommended for you

Tiny 'water bears' can teach us about survival

March 20, 2019

Earth's ultimate survivors can weather extreme heat, cold, radiation and even the vacuum of space. Now the U.S. military hopes these tiny critters called tardigrades can teach us about true toughness.

A decade on, smartphone-like software finally heads to space

March 20, 2019

Once a traditional satellite is launched into space, its physical hardware and computer software stay mostly immutable for the rest of its existence as it orbits the Earth, even as the technology it serves on the ground continues ...

Researchers find hidden proteins in bacteria

March 20, 2019

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago have developed a way to identify the beginning of every gene—known as a translation start site or a start codon—in bacterial cell DNA with a single experiment and, through ...

Turn off a light, save a life, says new study

March 20, 2019

We all know that turning off lights and buying energy-efficient appliances affects our financial bottom line. Now, according to a new study by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, we know that saving energy also saves ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.