Evolution of resistance to single and combined floral phytochemicals by a bumble bee parasite
Nectar acquisition in the honeybee Apis mellifera is a partitioned task in which foragers gather nectar and bring it to the hive, where nest mates unload via trophallaxis (i.e. mouth-to-mouth transfer) the collected food for further storage. Because forager mates exploit different feeding places simultaneously, this study addresses the question of whether nectar unloading interactions between foragers and hive-bees are established randomly, as it is commonly assumed. Two groups of foragers were trained to exploit a different scented food source for 5 days. We recorded their trophallaxes with hive-mates, marking the latter ones according to the forager group they were unloading. We found non-random probabilities for the occurrence of trophallaxes between experimental foragers and hive-bees, instead, we found that trophallactic interactions were more likely to involve groups of individuals which had formerly interacted orally. We propose that olfactory cues present in the transferred nectar promoted the observed bias, and we discuss this bias in the context of the organization of nectar acquisition: a partitioned task carried out in a decentralized insect society.