Some honey bees tend to take risks

Believe it or not -- some honey bees tend to take the initiative or the risk to find new hives, with their brains showing similar patterns of activity as those found in adventure loving humans, a study reveals.

"In humans, differences in novelty-seeking are a component of personality. Could insects also have personalities?" asks Gene Robinson, professor of entomology at the University of Illinois entomology, who led the study.

Depending on 'personality' type, individual honey bees may or may not like to perform particular tasks, said Robinson, according to a university statement.

Robinson and colleagues studied two behaviours that looked like novelty-seeking in honey bees: scouting for nest sites and scouting for food.

When a colony of bees outgrows its living quarters, the hive divides and the swarm must find a suitable new home. At this moment of crisis, a few intrepid bees -- less than five percent of the swarm -- take off to hunt for a hive.

These bees, called nest scouts, are on average 3.4 times more likely than their peers to also become food scouts, the researchers found.

Not only do certain bees exhibit signs of novelty-seeking, but their willingness or eagerness to "go the extra mile" can be vital to the life of the hive, said Robinson.
Researchers found thousands of distinct differences in gene activity in the brains of scouting and non-scouting bees.

"We expected to find some, but the magnitude of the differences was surprising given that both scouts and non-scouts are foragers," Robinson said.

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