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J Exp Biol. 2009 Aug;212(Pt 16):2604-11. doi: 10.1242/jeb.028100.

The effects of age and behavioral development on honey bee (Apis mellifera) flight performance.

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  • 1School of Life Sciences, University of Nevada, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, NV 89154, USA.

Abstract

A critical but seldom-studied component of life history theory is how behavior and age affect whole-organism performance. To address this issue we compared the flight performance of honey bees (whose behavioral development and age can be assessed independently via simple manipulations of colony demographics) between distinct behavioral castes (in-hive nurse bees vs out-of-hive foragers) and across lifespan. Variable-density gases and high-speed video were used to determine the maximum hovering flight capacity and wing kinematics of age-matched nurse bees and foragers sampled from a single-cohort colony over a period of 34 days. The transition from hive work to foraging was accompanied by a 42% decrease in body mass and a proportional increase in flight capacity (defined as the minimum gas density allowing hovering flight). The lower flight capacity of hive bees was primarily due to the fact that in air they were functioning at a near-maximal wing angular velocity due to their high body masses. Foragers were lighter and when hovering in air required a much lower wing angular velocity, which they were able to increase by 32% during maximal flight performance. Flight performance of hive bees was independent of age, but in foragers the maximal wingbeat frequency and maximal average angular velocity were lowest in precocious (7-14 day old) foragers, highest in normal-aged (15-28 day old) foragers and intermediate in foragers older than 29 days. This pattern coincides with previously described age-dependent biochemical and metabolic properties of honey bee flight muscle.

PMID:
19648405
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2726856
Free PMC Article
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