Age Polyethism in Worker Honey Bees

Department of Biology, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva
Ethology (Impact Factor: 1.79). 04/2010; 71(3):252 - 255. DOI: 10.1111/j.1439-0310.1986.tb00589.x
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    • "Another way that social insects achieve task allocation through relatively fixed roles is by assigning tasks to workers based on age, a process called age polyethism. This has been extensively described in honey bees (Seeley 1982; Kolmes 1986), as well as in some ants (Calahi et al. 1983; Julian and Fewell 2004; Camargo et al. 2007; Waddington and Hughes 2010). Although workers are not morphologically distinct, workers can experience physiological changes that occur as the individual grows older, and these trigger preferences for different task types, either directly or indirectly. "
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    ABSTRACT: We expect that human organizations and cooperative animal groups should be optimized for collective performance. This often involves the allocation of different individuals to different tasks. Social insect colonies are a prime example of cooperative animal groups that display sophisticated mechanisms of task allocation. Here we discuss which task allocation strategies may be adapted to which environmental and social conditions. Effective and robust task allocation is a hard problem, and in many biological and engineered complex systems is solved in a decentralized manner: human organizations may benefit from insights into what makes decentralized strategies of group organization effective. In addition, we often find considerable variation among individuals in how much work they appear to contribute, despite the fact that individual selfishness in social insects is low and optimization occurs largely at the group level. We review possible explanations for uneven workloads among workers, including limitations on individual information collection or constraints of task allocation efficiency, such as when there is a mismatch between the frequency of fluctuations in demand for work and the speed at which workers can be reallocated. These processes are likely to apply to any system in which worker agents are allocated to tasks with fluctuating demand, and should therefore be instructive to understanding optimal task allocation and inactive workers in any distributed system. Some of these processes imply that a certain proportion of inactive workers can be an adaptive strategy for collective organization.
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    ABSTRACT: A well-regulated division of labor has been one of the core adaptations leading to the success of the social insects. Honeybee division of labor has been classically viewed as a sequence of age-related changes in task performance. Kolmes questioned this view arguing that his studies did not support the existence of any age-related within-nest specialization. To resolve this controversy, Kolmes and Seeley conducted a joint study with mixed results. They found support for a cell cleaning caste, but diverged on whether their results supported distinct nursing and middle age castes. In this paper, I follow up on their work to resolve the question of caste number in within-nest honey bees. To determine whether nurses (typically aged 4–12days) and middle-aged bees (aged 12–20days) have distinct task repertoires, I conducted focal animal observations on a large number of workers in both age groups working within the same nests at the same time. The results support their being two castes of within-nest bees. Young bees specialized on brood care tasks, while middle-aged bees specialized on nectar processing and nest maintenance. Middle-aged bees were observed caring for brood in less than 1% of the observations. Moreover, both castes exhibited movement patterns that correspond to the traditional view that nurses stay within the broodnest, while middle-aged bees move around a great deal in search of work throughout the nest. A review of studies conducted since the debate of Seeley and Kolmes supports the reliability of these results. This work has relevance for proximate models of temporal polyethism, as it is often assumed by such models that there is only one within-nest caste in the honeybee.
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    ABSTRACT: This memo summarizes results obtained from an analysis of seven transient overpower experiments (PNL2-1, PNL2-11, HOP3-3C, C4A, C4B, C4G, C4H) tested in the TREAT facility. The objective of this analysis was to determine the feasibility of predicting cladding failure under transient overpower conditions using the results of a mechanistic fuel rod structural analysis and data from basic cladding material property tests. These results are summarized. A secondary objective was to compare the predictive ability of this mechanistic approach with the predictive ability of more empirical methods. A mechanistic approach to cladding failure prediction is defined as one in which cladding stresses and strains are calculated as functions of time and are compared with basic cladding material property data to predict failure. An empirical approach is defined as one in which basic cladding property data are not used directly to evaluate cladding response or in which cladding loading is not expressed in terms of cladding stress and strain histories.
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