By , on March 12th, 2012

Honey Bees Have “Personalities”, Research Shows

One of the more interesting aspects of whole gene sequencing is that science is learning that there are a whole array of behavioral traits that are genetically based.  Evolution is all about nature finding solutions that make a species successful.  Once a solution is found to be (relatively) successful, this can be passed down to future generations.  But how, exactly, are these solutions passed from one generation to another?

For eons, we have debated the relatively contribution of “nature” (meaning genetics in this context) verses “nuture” (meaning learning from others).  With the insights of genetic sequencing, many of the behaviors for which we attributed “nurture” may, in fact, be “nature”.

A case in point is the concept of “personality”.  Here is an interesting article in Science Daily (March 8, 2012) that seems to establish a genetic basis of a “novelty-seeking” behavior in a select minority of honey bees in a hive.  In a strict scientific definition of “personality” in humans, “novelty-seeking” behaviour is an important defining trait of “personality”.

So does this mean that bees have a “personality”?  If we go by a scientific definition of the word, then it would seem to be so – in the context of a honey bee.

When nature finds a solution to a problem, there is a strong tendency to pass this solution to following generations.  This is what natural selection is all about.  And as organisms evolve into different species, these solutions are also passed on to these different species.  By observing how wide spread among species these solutions occur, we can make educated guesses as to when these solutions appeared on the scene.

This current research seems to indicate that the genetic basis for “personality” appeared very early in the tree of life and that species as widely different as humans and honey bees still share a very similar genetic coding for this trait.

The complete Science Daily article can be read by clicking here.


Added by Zachary Huang: A very nice study..I wish I could have thought up the idea of using the house-hunting scouts (much easier to identify! create an artificial swarm and you will scouts dancing in a few hours)…

1. The Science mag had a photo of 2 bees feeding one another from me:

2. The news from showed a different photo, also from my collections.

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