Aversive conditioning in honey bees (Apis mellifera anatolica): a comparison of drones and workers

Dinges C. W., Avalos A., Abramson C. I., Craig D. P. A., Austin Z. M., Varnon C. A., ...More

JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BIOLOGY, vol.216, no.21, pp.4124-4134, 2013 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 216 Issue: 21
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Doi Number: 10.1242/jeb.090100
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.4124-4134
  • Bursa Uludag University Affiliated: Yes


Honey bees provide a model system to elucidate the relationship between sociality and complex behaviors within the same species, as females (workers) are highly social and males (drones) are more solitary. We report on aversive learning studies in drone and worker honey bees (Apis mellifera anatolica) in escape, punishment and discriminative punishment situations. In all three experiments, a newly developed electric shock avoidance assay was used. The comparisons of expected and observed responses were performed with conventional statistical methods and a systematic randomization modeling approach called object oriented modeling. The escape experiment consisted of two measurements recorded in a master-yoked paradigm: frequency of response and latency to respond following administration of shock. Master individuals could terminate an unavoidable shock triggered by a decrementing 30 s timer by crossing the shuttlebox centerline following shock activation. Across all groups, there was large individual response variation. When assessing group response frequency and latency, master subjects performed better than yoked subjects for both workers and drones. In the punishment experiment, individuals were shocked upon entering the shock portion of a bilaterally wired shuttlebox. The shock portion was spatially static and unsignalled. Only workers effectively avoided the shock. The discriminative punishment experiment repeated the punishment experiment but included a counterbalanced blue and yellow background signal and the side of shock was manipulated. Drones correctly responded less than workers when shock was paired with blue. However, when shock was paired with yellow there was no observable difference between drones and workers.