Differences in the sleep architecture of forager and young honeybees (Apis mellifera)

Ada D. Eban-Rothschild, Guy Bloch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Honeybee (Apis mellifera) foragers are among the first invertebrates for which sleep behavior has been described. Foragers (typically older than 21 days) have strong circadian rhythms; they are active during the day, and sleep during the night. We explored whether young bees (∼3 days of age), which are typically active around-the-clock with no circadian rhythms, also exhibit sleep behavior. We combined 24-hour video recordings, detailed behavioral observations, and analyses of response thresholds to a light pulse for individually housed bees in various arousal states. We characterized three sleep stages in foragers on the basis of differences in body posture, bout duration, antennae movements and response threshold. Young bees exhibited sleep behavior consisting of the same three stages as observed in foragers. Sleep was interrupted by brief awakenings, which were as frequent in young bees as in foragers. Beyond these similarities, we found differences in the sleep architecture of young bees and foragers. Young bees passed more frequently between the three sleep stages, and stayed longer in the lightest sleep stage than foragers. These differences in sleep architecture may represent developmental and/or environmentally induced variations in the neuronal network underlying sleep in honeybees. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first evidence for plasticity in sleep behavior in insects.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2408-2416
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2008


  • Apis mellifera
  • Behavioral development
  • Insect
  • Response threshold
  • Sleep


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