Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Agriculture, Food and Environment



First Advisor

Dr. Clare Rittschof


The optimality of a foraging strategy shifts in response to dynamic ecological conditions and the need to devote effort to other tasks. Nest defense and foraging effort in the honey bee may trade off as both tasks are performed by a shared workforce of physiologically-specialized individuals in exclusive roles. Honey robbing is a foraging strategy predicted to benefit from simultaneous increases in foraging and defensive effort, but may be constrained by workforce specialization. We developed a methodology to induce robbing behaviors with uninhabited bait hives. We used this methodology to evaluate foraging and defensive effort before and during robbing by measuring forager activity and guard defensive behavior. We then assessed three cues as potential indicators guards use to determine colony robbing status. We assessed changes in identifying odor through laboratory assays of comb exposure, robber behavior through a genomic analysis of aggression biomarker genes, and field studies of the correlation between forager activity and guard defensiveness. Our results indicate colonies can simultaneously increase defensive and foraging effort when participating in robbing. We determine guards likely respond to multiple cues, with strong evidence for robbing nestmate behavior and some evidence for forager activity as signals. These results show colonies are able to dynamically balance the trade-offs of worker specialization to facilitate optimal foraging through complex social cues.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)