Self-organization during honeybee colony defence
Supervisor: Morgane Nouvian & Giovanni Galizia, Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behavior, University of Konstanz
Honeybees defend their colony collectively against large predators, by mass stinging. This behaviour requires decentralized coordination between at least two populations of bees: one responsible for the detection of threats, and the other for actually stinging the intruder. Honeybees use the sting alarm pheromone, an odour blend carried directly on their stinger, to communicate during defensive events. Recently, we found that responses to the alarm pheromone change drastically across individual bees depending on their life stage.
The aims of this doctoral project will be to understand how alarm pheromone responsiveness is regulated during the life of each bee so as to create this variability, and how this variability in turn shapes the resulting collective defensive behaviour.
More specifically, the project will first investigate the link between alarm pheromone responsiveness and the age-dependent division of labour characteristic of honeybee colonies. Second, it will look for the physiological underpinnings of this variability in responsiveness. Finally, it will study the impact of this regulation on colony efficiency both during and outside of defensive events, taking into account the suicidal nature of stinging behaviour. For more insights into the research groups of Nouvian and Galizia.
Start date: March/April 2022
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