Seasonality, alarm pheromone and serotonin : insights on the neurobiology of honeybee defence from winter bees
2018, Nouvian, Morgane, Deisig, Nina, Reinhard, Judith, Giurfa, Martin
Honeybees maintain their colony throughout the cold winters, a strategy that enables them to make the most of early spring flowers. During this period, their activity is mostly limited to thermoregulation, while foraging and brood rearing are stopped. Less is known about seasonal changes to the essential task of defending the colony against intruders, which is regulated by the sting alarm pheromone. We studied the stinging responsiveness of winter bees exposed to this scent or a control (solvent). Surprisingly, winter bees, while maintaining their responsiveness in control conditions, did not increase stinging frequency in response to the alarm pheromone. This was not owing to the bees not perceiving the pheromone, as shown by calcium imaging of the antennal lobes. As the alarm pheromone is thought to act through an increase in brain serotonin levels, ultimately causing heightened defensiveness, we checked if serotonin treatments would affect the stinging behaviour of winter bees. Indeed, treated winter bees became more inclined to sting. Thus, we postulate that loss of responsiveness to the sting alarm pheromone is based on a partial or total disruption of the mechanism converting alarm pheromone perception into high serotonin levels in winter bees.
Appetitive floral odours prevent aggression in honeybees
2015-12-22, Nouvian, Morgane, Hotier, Lucie, Claudianos, Charles, Giurfa, Martin, Reinhard, Judith
Honeybees defend their colonies aggressively against intruders and release a potent alarm pheromone to recruit nestmates into defensive tasks. The effect of floral odours on this behaviour has never been studied, despite the relevance of these olfactory cues for the biology of bees. Here we use a novel assay to investigate social and olfactory cues that drive defensive behaviour in bees. We show that social interactions are necessary to reveal the recruiting function of the alarm pheromone and that specific floral odours-linalool and 2-phenylethanol-have the surprising capacity to block recruitment by the alarm pheromone. This effect is not due to an olfactory masking of the pheromone by the floral odours, but correlates with their appetitive value. In addition to their potential applications, these findings provide new insights about how honeybees make the decision to engage into defence and how conflicting information affects this process.
Cooperative defence operates by social modulation of biogenic amine levels in the honey bee brain
2018, Nouvian, Morgane, Mandal, Souvik, Jamme, Charlène, Claudianos, Charles, d'Ettorre, Patrizia, Reinhard, Judith, Barron, Andrew B., Giurfa, Martin
The defence of a society often requires that some specialized members coordinate to repel a threat at personal risk. This is especially true for honey bee guards, which defend the hive and may sacrifice their lives upon stinging. Central to this cooperative defensive response is the sting alarm pheromone, which has isoamyl acetate (IAA) as its main component. Although this defensive behaviour has been well described, the neural mechanisms triggered by IAA to coordinate stinging have long remained unknown. Here we show that IAA upregulates brain levels of serotonin and dopamine, thereby increasing the likelihood of an individual bee to attack and sting. Pharmacological enhancement of the levels of both amines induces higher defensive responsiveness, while decreasing them via antagonists decreases stinging. Our results thus uncover the neural mechanism by which an alarm pheromone recruits individuals to attack and repel a threat, and suggest that the alarm pheromone of honey bees acts on their response threshold rather than as a direct trigger.
The defensive response of the honeybee Apis mellifera
2016, Nouvian, Morgane, Reinhard, Judith, Giurfa, Martin
Honeybees (Apis mellifera) are insects living in colonies with a complex social organization. Their nest contains food stores in the form of honey and pollen, as well as the brood, the queen and the bees themselves. These resources have to be defended against a wide range of predators and parasites, a task that is performed by specialized workers, called guard bees. Guards tune their response to both the nature of the threat and the environmental conditions, in order to achieve an efficient trade-off between defence and loss of foraging workforce. By releasing alarm pheromones, they are able to recruit other bees to help them handle large predators. These chemicals trigger both rapid and longer-term changes in the behaviour of nearby bees, thus priming them for defence. Here, we review our current understanding on how this sequence of events is performed and regulated depending on a variety of factors that are both extrinsic and intrinsic to the colony. We present our current knowledge on the neural bases of honeybee aggression and highlight research avenues for future studies in this area. We present a brief overview of the techniques used to study honeybee aggression, and discuss how these could be used to gain further insights into the mechanisms of this behaviour.