Honeybees Have Distinct Personalities

Author: Meera, July 29, 2013


Bees that swarm will follow reconnaissance  scouts to their new nest

Bees that swarm will follow reconnaissance scouts to their new nest



I don’t wear perfume in the garden least the bees think I’m a flower and light on me. But if they do, I let them walk around and explore. I don’t swat at them. Why would I? Honeybees are generally among the most docile of all bees.


Honeybees also have different personality types, according to research published in 2012 in the magazine Science and based on a study by Gene Robinson, University of Illinois entomology professor and director of the Institute for Genomic Biology. See, http://news.illinois.edu/news/12/0308bees_GeneRobinson.html


Scavenging and reconnaissance work carries more risk and challenge, whether you are human or honeybee. An adventuresome personality is usually best suited for that kind of work. Robinson and his researchers observed that the honeybees that do the nest and food scouting express distinct patterns of gene activity in molecular pathways that have been associated with thrill-seeking.



The honeybee queen's "house"

The honeybee queen’s “house”



Whereas the adventurous scouts choose the thrill of taking off, the more intrepid and timid bees tend to stick closer to home, doing the tasks of building the hive, cleaning it, caring for the babies, and making honey. Robinson’s research debunks the ages-old idea that the colony’s workers are interchangeable.


America’s first honeybees arrived in from Europe by ship to the American colonies in the 17th century. It took approximately 200 years for the honeybees to get to the West Coast from that early introduction. Some went feral. See, http://www.orsba.org/htdocs/download/Honey%20Bees%20Across%20America.html


The most aggressive honeybee personality is the Africanized bee (aka, killer bees). These bees attack (often in droves) if they perceive a threat to their nest orĀ  queen. See, http://www.independent.ie/world-news/americas/couple-attacked-by-swarm-of-30000-bees-who-kill-their-two-horses-29456104.html


The Africanized bees have spread from Brazil, where honeybees from Europe (highly valued for pollinating crops and producing honey) were interbred with bees from Africa. These bees were inadvertently released in the 1950′s in Brazil and began to migrate north. They are now in Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and California. See, http://bees.ucr.edu/ahb-facts.html


All this information about work and personality types as it relates to honeybees makes me wonder: If we humans suited our work to our personality types, would we work as contentedly as do the bees in the garden and those in the hive?




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