Evolutionary, genetic, and physiological mechanisms driving nestmate recognition in social insects

Harvesting bees to be tagged and studied.JPG

cassie vernier, Yehuda Ben-shahar

Nestmate recognition is an important mechanism of nest defense in social insects, and relies upon colony-specific cues that are shared by members of the same colony. Although previous work has focused on what serves as nestmate recognition cues in these highly successful insect groups, not much is known about how these cues develop and what causes differences in cues between colonies. Cassie's work in the Ben-Shahar lab studies mechanisms of nestmate recognition cue development in the honey bee, Apis mellifera. Specificially, she is studying how nestmate recognition cues develop in aging honey bees, whether this development depends upon behavioral task rather than age itself, and the role social environmental factors play in defining colony-specific cues. Her work at Tyson includes keeping and maintaining experimental hives, performing hive demography manipulations, and conducting behavioral assays at the hive entrance.