Prisoners receive food fit for a queen: honeybees feed small hive beetles protein-rich glandular secretions through trophallaxis [RESEARCH ARTICLE]
Zoë Langlands, Esther E. du Rand, Karl Crailsheim, Abdullahi A. Yusuf, and Christian W. W. Pirk The honeybee nest parasite Aethina tumida (small hive beetle) uses behavioural mimicry to induce trophallactic feeding from its honeybee hosts. Small hive beetles are able to induce honeybee workers to share the carbohydrate-rich contents of their crops, but it is not clear whether the beetles are able to induce to workers to feed them the protein-rich hypopharyngeal glandular secretions fed to the queen, larvae and other nest mates. Protein is a limiting macronutrient in an insect's diet, essential for survival, growth and fecundity. Honeybees obtain protein from pollen, which is consumed and digested by nurse bees. They then distribute the protein to the rest of the colony in the form of hypopharyngeal gland secretions. Using 14C-phenylalanine as a qualitative marker for protein transfer, we show that small hive beetles successfully induce worker bees to feed them the protein-rich secretions of their hypopharyngeal glands during trophallaxis, and that females are more successful than males in inducing the transfer of these protein-rich secretions. Furthermore, behavioural observations demonstrated that female beetles do not preferentially interact with a specific age cohort of bees when soliciting food, but males tend to be more discriminant and avoid the more aggressive and active older bees.