Experience Affects Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Activity and Diet Preferences in a Controlled Environment
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractResearch on the use of greenhouse pollinators other than bumblebees is of increasing importance as global climate change poses greater risk to field crops, and controlled environment agriculture (CEA) ensures some access to food out of season and during times of crop failures. Unlike many native or solitary pollinators, there are well established management systems for honey bees as outdoor crop pollinators and they are widely and often locally available. Despite this, little has been done to investigate the use of honey bees as greenhouse pollinators, in part due to anecdotal evidence that honey bee foragers are disoriented in the artificial environment and never return to their colonies. This apparent disorientation could be due to the greenhouse disrupting cues that honey bee foragers learn to use in navigating natural environments, such as the position of the sun, floral odors, and visual and tactile cues. There is evidence that individual experience can affect honey bee behavior, but how does experience in different environments affect honey bee activity, diet choice and learning in the greenhouse? The aim of the current study was to bring insights gained from lab studies into a larger context to move towards understanding patterns of honey bee behavior in greenhouse agricultural environments. To answer this question of how experience affects honey bee behavior, naïve colonies were maintained outdoors or in the greenhouse until bees were several days past foraging age. Colonies from each group were then moved to separate greenhouse or screened enclosures to observe foraging on artificially provided diets in each environment type. We observed bee activity at feeder arrays containing high- to low-value pollen and sucrose resources. The results generally suggest that the greenhouse environment encourages higher sucrose foraging activity, but for pollen foraging, activity depends on prior experience. Prior experience also affects preference for diets of different quality in the greenhouse but not in the screenhouse. Learning acquisition was not affected by the environment of prior experience. The environment of prior experience may be part of the reason honey bees appear disoriented in a greenhouse. Using naive honey bee colonies rather than outdoor experienced colonies could be a management strategy for achieving better pollination with honey bees in a greenhouse.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Entomology and Insect Science