Body size but not age influences phototaxis in bumble bee (Bombus terrestris, L.) workers

Michal Merling, Shmuel Eisenmann, Guy Bloch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


We studied phototaxis, the directional movement relative to light, in the bumble bee Bombus terrestris. We first developed and validated a MATLAB-based system enabling reliable high-resolution tracking of a bee and a measurement of her distance relative to a changing LED light source. Using this system, we found in all our experiments that workers show positive phototaxis. The strength of the phototactic response was influenced by body size but not age, and this effect was significant when the light source was weak. In a separate experiment, foragers showed stronger phototactic response compared with nurses only in one of two trials in which they were larger and tested with weak light intensity. The evidence that phototaxis is associated with size-based division of labor in the bumble bee and with age-related division of labor in the honey bee lends credence to response threshold models implicating the response to light in the organization of division of labor in cavity dwelling social insects.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)763-776
Number of pages14
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, INRAE, DIB and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature.


  • Bombus
  • age
  • body size
  • division of labor
  • locomotor activity
  • phototaxis


Dive into the research topics of 'Body size but not age influences phototaxis in bumble bee (Bombus terrestris, L.) workers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this