Expression of foraging genes is associated with the division of labor among Western and Eastern honey bee adult workers

Published: 19 February 2024| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/g885pdr98z.1
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In the division of labor (DOL), individual bees exhibit varying behavioral responses to the same stimulus. Specifically, the response of adult worker bees to sucrose is highly variable and closely linked to differences in the behavioral decision-making. However, it is unclear whether patterns of gene-behavior interactions influence the DOL. In this study, we investigated the DOL mechanism in honeybee adult workers is associated with the sucrose responsiveness of bee foragers. First, we quantified the gustatory response scores (GRS) of the Western bee Apis mellifera and the Eastern bee Apis cerana under four tasks, that is, pollen foraging, nectar foraging, water foraging, and guarding. Second, we determined the mRNA levels of six forage-related genes in bees’ brains, namely the foraging genes Amfor and Acfor, which encode a cyclic guanosine monophosphate-dependent protein kinase, the dopamine receptor genes AmOct and AcOct, and the insulin receptor genes AmInR and AcInR. The results revealed that among Western bees, water and pollen foragers had the highest GRS. Among Eastern bees, water foragers had significantly higher GRS than nectar foragers. However, we observed no significant difference in the GRS between A. mellifera and A. cerana bee species under different tasks. The highest expression of foraging genes was detected in water foragers among A. mellifera species and guard bees among A. cerana species. Furthermore, we observed a significant positive correlation between foraging gene expressions and GRS in both Western and Eastern foragers. The results suggest that both bee species exhibit the same sensitivity in foraging for food in their ecological niches, and PKG signaling in the bees’ brain is directly linked to the DOL.



Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences


Honey Bee


Yunnan Provincial Science and Technology Department


Yunnan Provincial Science and Technology Department


Yunnan Provincial Science and Technology Department