Brood odor discrimination abilities in hygienic honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) using proboscis extension reflex conditioning

R. Masterman, B. H. Smith, M. Spivak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


To understand the effect of abnormal brood odors on the initiation or control of hygienic behavior in honey bees, we employed the associative learning paradigm, proboscis extension reflex conditioning. Bees from two genetic lines (hygienic and non-hygienic) were able to discriminate between high concentrations of two floral odors equally well. Differential discrimination abilities were observed between the two lines when healthy and diseased brood odors were used, with the bees from the hygienic line discriminating between the pair of brood odors better than the non-hygienic bees. These results suggest that hygienic behavior in individual bees is associated with the bees' responses to olfactory stimuli emanating from diseased brood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-101
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Insect Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to G. Reuter for his technical assistance. We thank Dr. Mesce for providing direction in this study and for her helpful comments on improving this manuscript and Dr. Venette for his assistance with SAS. This work is in partial fulfillment of the Ph.D. degree for R. M. at the University of Minnesota. We acknowledge the Louise T. Dosdall Fellowship, Alexander P. and Lydia Anderson and University of Minnesota Department of Entomology Fellowships for support of R. M., and the National Science Foundation IBN-9722416 awarded to M. S. This paper is contribution #99-1-17-0008 from the Minnesota Agriculture Experiment Station.


  • Apis Mellifera
  • Discrimination conditioning
  • Honey bees
  • Hygienic behavior
  • Olfaction


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