Hygienic behaviors of honey bees in response to brood experimentally pin-killed or infected with Ascosphaera apis

María Alejandra Palacio, Edgardo Rodriguez, Lionel Goncalves, Enrique Bedascarrasbure, Marla Spivak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Hygienic behavior of honeybees involves inspection, uncapping and removal of diseased and dead brood from the colony. The objective of this work was to study the activities involved in hygienic behavior of individually tagged bees from selected hygienic (H) and non-hygienic (NH) colonies in the presence of chalkbrood infected brood (Ascosphaera apis) or pin-killed brood. No significant difference was detected in the age of bees inspecting, uncapping or removing brood in H and NH colonies; the median age was 15 days for all activities. The percentage of bees that performed these activities was significantly higher in H colonies. In NH colonies the bees that performed this behavior were more persistent but bees in H colonies were more efficient in the removal of the chalkbrood mummies. H colonies began uncapping more rapidly in response to the stimulus of dead brood independent of the method used to kill it. H and NH bees took the same amount of time to remove the mummies once they initiated the uncapping process but NH colonies took longer to remove pin-killed brood. These findings confirm previous behavioral studies on the activities of hygienic and non-hygienic bees toward freeze-killed brood, but this is the first time the entire process from inspection to removal was focused on individual cells containing actual diseased brood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)602-612
Number of pages11
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • Apis mellifera
  • Arbeitsteilung
  • Ascosphaera apis
  • Hygieneverhalten


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