Octopamine increases individual and collective foraging in a neotropical stingless bee

Tianfei Peng*, Max Schroeder, Christoph Grueter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


The biogenic amine octopamine (OA) is a key modulator of individual and social behaviours in honeybees, but its role in the other group of highly eusocial bees, the stingless bees, remains largely unknown. In honeybees, OA mediates reward perception and affects a wide range of reward-seeking behaviours. Thus, we tested the hypothesis that OA increases individual foraging effort and collective food source exploitation in the neotropical stingless bee Plebeia droryana. OA treatment caused a significant increase in the number of bees at artificial sucrose feeders and a 1.73-times higher individual foraging frequency. This effect can be explained by OA lowering the sucrose response threshold and, thus, increasing the perceived value of the food source. Our results demonstrate that, similar to its effects on honeybees, OA increases both individual and collective food source exploitation in P. droryana. This suggests that, despite having evolved many complex behaviours independently, OA might have similar regulatory effects on foraging behaviours in the two groups of highly eusocial bees.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20200238
Number of pages5
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number6
Early online date10 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2020

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