Honey Bee Behaviors and Viruses

Thumbnail Image
Haritos, Amber
Major Professor
Committee Member
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Organizational Unit
Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology

The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology seeks to teach the studies of ecology (organisms and their environment), evolutionary theory (the origin and interrelationships of organisms), and organismal biology (the structure, function, and biodiversity of organisms). In doing this, it offers several majors which are codirected with other departments, including biology, genetics, and environmental sciences.

The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology was founded in 2003 as a merger of the Department of Botany, the Department of Microbiology, and the Department of Zoology and Genetics.

Dates of Existence

Related Units

Journal Issue
Is Version Of
Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The Symposium provides undergraduates from all academic disciplines with an opportunity to share their research with the university community and other guests through conference-style oral presentations. The Symposium represents part of a larger effort of Iowa State University to enhance, support, and celebrate undergraduate research activity.

Though coordinated by the University Honors Program, all undergraduate students are eligible and encouraged to participate in the Symposium. Undergraduates conducting research but not yet ready to present their work are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the presentation process and students not currently involved in research are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the broad range of undergraduate research activities that are taking place at ISU.

The first Symposium was held in April 2007. The 39 students who presented research and their mentors collectively represented all of ISU's Colleges: Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business, Design, Engineering, Human Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and the Graduate College. The event has grown to regularly include more than 100 students presenting on topics that span the broad range of disciplines studied at ISU.


In recent years, honey bee populations have been under increased stress, which has led to declines in bee populations worldwide. One important stressor to honey bee health is infection with poorly understood viruses. Little is known about how these viruses affect bees, but their effect on behavior is particularly understudied. We hypothesized that the virus would initiate the infected bees to interact more with the “healthy” bees to spread the virus more efficiently. Therefore, to better understand how viral infection affects honey bee behavior, we experimentally infected adult honey bees and then used laboratory assays to observe and record the effect on their social behavior. We observed how infected, uninfected, and pseudo-infected (bees fed inactive virus) bees interacted with an uninfected nest-mate to identify how viral pathogens could change these interactions. We observed a total of 360 honey bees for differences in occurrence between the different treatment groups. We found that the majority of behaviors we recorded remained the same between the groups. However, some potentially important social behaviors, such as grooming, differed between the groups, with the infected bees expressing more/less of a behavior. Our results indicate that viral infection can lead to differences in social behavioral phenotype in honey bees. These behaviors are particularly important because they could be involved in the spread of pathogens or social behaviors that help stop infections from spreading. Drastic changes in behavior could also lead to larger-scale effects on the colony as a whole, with important potential impacts on overall hive health. In the future, we can perform more fine-tuned behavioral observations, focusing on the behaviors we identified as important and scaling up our experiments into larger settings, such as full-sized bee hives. Another idea is that we may choose to video tape the interactions between the honey bees and score the behaviors this way because although this method would take longer, it’s a lot more accurate to notice every single detail.

Subject Categories