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Apis florea workers show a prolonged period of nursing behavior

  • Hemalatha Bhagavan
  • Axel BrockmannEmail author
Original article


Studies on behavioral maturation and division of labor in open-nesting honey bee species are scarce as the bee curtain inhibits direct examination of intranidal behaviors. We observed and studied nursing behavior in Apis florea by attaching a foreign comb with open brood to a host colony. Several of the workers that explored the attached comb visited the cells with brood more often and spent more time in cells compared to empty cells. Workers seen inspecting and feeding the brood had well-developed hypopharyngeal glands compared to foragers of their own colony indicating that they are nurses performing nursing behavior. Further, introducing marked 1-day-old workers into the host colony and repeatedly attaching combs with open brood allowed us to estimate the age range of nursing behavior. In our experiments, A. florea workers started to perform significant nursing behavior 8 days after eclosion and continued to show nursing behavior until the age of 28 days, the end of our observation period. Thus, nursing behavior in A. florea appears to be substantially extended relative to A. mellifera.


Honey bee Hypopharyngeal gland Behavioral maturation Division of labor 



We would like to thank Hanumantha Raju for finding and collecting A. florea colonies as well as E.A. George help with statistical assistance. P.L. Kohl, S. Unnikrishnan, and A. Young and the reviewers for their helpful suggestions to improve the manuscript.

Authors’ contribution

HB and AB designed the study. HB performed and analyzed the experiments. HB and AB wrote the manuscript.

Funding information

The research was supported by NCBS institutional funds to AB (12P4167).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© INRA, DIB and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Centre for Biological SciencesTata Institute of Fundamental ResearchBangaloreIndia
  2. 2.Manipal UniversityManipalIndia

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