Campus Units

Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology

Document Type


Publication Version

Accepted Manuscript

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Functional Ecology




1. Animal nutritional state can profoundly affect behavior, including an individual’s tendency to cooperate with others. We investigated how nutritional restriction at different life stages affects cooperative behavior in a highly social species, Apis mellifera honey bees.

2. We found that nutritional restriction affects a worker’s queen pheromone response, a behavioral indicator of investment in group vs. individual reproduction. Nutritional restriction at the larval stage led to reduced ovary size and increased queen pheromone response, whereas nutritional restriction at the adult stage led to reduced lipid stores and reduced queen pheromone response.

3. We argue that these differences depend upon the extent of reproductive plasticity at these life stages, and that individual worker honey bees may adjust their behavioral and physiological traits in response to nutritional stress to invest nutritional resources in either their own or their colony’s reproduction.

4. These results support the role of nutritional stress in the maintenance of cooperative behavior and we suggest that historical nutritional scarcity may be an important contributor to the evolution of extreme forms of cooperation.


This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Walton, Alexander, Adam G. Dolezal, Marit A. Bakken, and Amy L. Toth. "Hungry for the queen: honey bee nutritional environment affects worker pheromone response in a life‐stage dependent manner." Functional Ecology (2018), which has been published in final form at doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.13222. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.

Copyright Owner

The Authors; Journal compilation British Ecological Society



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Published Version