Unnatural contexts cause honey bee guards to adopt non-guarding behaviours towards allospecifics and conspecifics

Couvillon, Margaret J, Boniface, Taylor J, Evripidou, Alexis M, Owen, Christopher J and Ratnieks, Francis L W (2015) Unnatural contexts cause honey bee guards to adopt non-guarding behaviours towards allospecifics and conspecifics. Ethology, 121 (4). pp. 410-418. ISSN 0179-1613

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Context plays an important role in a discriminator's ability to make appropriate recognition decisions, such as accepting what is acceptable and rejecting what is not acceptable. Previously it was shown that in both honey bees and stingless bees, discriminating workers (guards) make more errors towards conspecific non-nestmates when the guards are removed from the natural hive entrance. However, it may be that guards, in addition to making incorrect recognition decisions, also may adopt non-guarding behaviours. Here, we tested honey bee guards in two contexts (natural versus unnatural) against five types of introduced arthropods (conspecific nestmates and non-nestmates; allospecific wasps, beetles and woodlice), which should be rejected without error. We scored a guard's response as accept, reject, avoid and ignore. Total errors significantly increased from natural to unnatural contexts. Specifically, guards were significantly more likely to make an acceptance error, guarding and accepting both conspecific and allospecific non-nestmates, in the unnatural context. Importantly, guards were significantly more likely to adopt a non-guarding behaviour in the unnatural context, which usually involved ignoring or avoiding, where a guard makes contact but then immediately retreats, the introduced arthropod. Overall, these data demonstrate the context is important. Removing a guard from the home that it protects elicits either incorrect discrimination or, additionally, a complete lack of discriminator behaviour altogether.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH0301 Biology
Depositing User: Tom Gittoes
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2015 13:54
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2015 13:54
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/53332
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