Sleeping in a society : social aspects of sleep within colonies of honey bees (Apis mellifera)

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Klein, Barrett Anthony

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Sleep is a behavioral condition fraught with mystery. Its definition—either a suite of diagnostic behavioral characters, electrophysiological signatures, or a combination of the two—varies in the literature and lacks an over-arching purpose. In spite of these vagaries, sleep supports a large and dynamic research community studying the mechanisms, ontogeny, possible functions and, to a lesser degree, its evolution across vertebrates and in a small number of invertebrates. Sleep has been described and examined in many social organisms, including eusocial honey bees (Apis mellifera), but the role of sleep within societies has rarely been addressed in non-human animals. I investigated uniquely social aspects of sleep within honey bees by asking basic questions relating to who sleeps, when and where individuals sleep, the flexibility of sleep, and why sleep is important within colonies of insects. First, I investigated caste-dependent sleep patterns in honey bees and report that younger workers (cell cleaners and nurse bees) exhibit arrhythmic and brief sleep bouts primarily while inside comb cells, while older workers (food storers and foragers) display periodic, longer sleep bouts primarily outside of cells. Next, I mapped sleep using remote thermal sensing across colonies of honey bees after introducing newly eclosed workers to experimental colonies and following them through periods of their adult lives. Bees tended to sleep outside of cells closer to the edge of the hive than when asleep inside cells or awake, and exhibited caste-dependent thermal patterns, both temporally and spatially. Wishing to test the flexibility of sleep, I trained foragers to a feeder and made a food resource available early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The bees were forced to shift their foraging schedule, which consequently also shifted their sleep schedule. Finally, I sleep-deprived a subset of foragers within a colony by employing a magnetic “insominator” to test for changes in their signaling precision. Sleep-deprived foragers exhibited reduced precision when encoding direction information to food sources in their waggle dances. These studies reveal patterns and one possible purpose of sleep in the context of a society.



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