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Toxins induce ‘malaise’ behaviour in the honeybee (Apis mellifera)

Toxins induce ‘malaise’ behaviour in the honeybee (Apis mellifera)

Hurst, Victoria, Stevenson, Philip C. ORCID: 0000-0002-0736-3619 and Wright, Geraldine A. (2014) Toxins induce ‘malaise’ behaviour in the honeybee (Apis mellifera). Journal of Comparative Physiology A: Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology, 200 (10). pp. 881-890. ISSN 0340-7594 (Print), 1432-1351 (Online) (doi:

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To avoid poisoning and death when toxins are ingested, the body responds with a suite of physiological detoxification mechanisms accompanied by behaviours that in mammals often include vomiting, nausea, and lethargy. Few studies have characterised whether insects exhibit characteristic ‘malaise-like’ behaviours in response to intoxication. Here, we used the honeybee to investigate how intoxication produced by injection or ingestion with three toxins with different pharmacological modes of action quinine, amygdalin, and lithium chloride affected behaviour. We found that toxin-induced changes in behaviour were best characterised by more time spent grooming. Bees also had difficulty performing the righting reflex and exhibited specific toxin-induced behaviours such as abdomen dragging and curling up. The expression of these behaviours also depended on whether a toxin had been injected or ingested. When toxins were ingested, they were least 10 times less concentrated in the haemolymph than in the ingested food, suggesting that their absorption through the gut is strongly regulated. Our data show that bees exhibit changes in behaviour that are characteristic of ‘malaise’ and suggest that physiological signalling of toxicosis is accomplished by multiple post-ingestive pathways in animals.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author(s) 2014. This article is published with open access at This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the source are credited.
Uncontrolled Keywords: honeybee, apis mellifera, malaise, toxin, aversion
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Agriculture, Health & Environment Department
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Chemical Ecology Research Group
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Last Modified: 17 Oct 2016 10:13

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