The colony environment modulates sleep in honey bee workers

Ada Eban-Rothschild, Guy Bloch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


One of the most important and evolutionarily conserved roles of sleep is the processing and consolidation of information acquired during wakefulness. In both insects and mammals, environmental and social stimuli can modify sleep physiology and behavior, yet relatively little is known about the specifics of the wake experiences and their relative contribution to experience-dependent modulation of sleep. Honey bees provide an excellent model system in this regard because their behavioral repertoire is well characterized and the environment they experience during the day can be manipulated while keeping an ecologically and sociobiologically relevant context. We examined whether social experience modulates sleep in honey bees, and evaluated the relative contribution of different social signals. We exposed newly emerged bees to different components of their natural social environment and then monitored their sleep behavior in individual cages in a constant lab environment. We found that rich waking experience modulates subsequent sleep. Bees that experienced the colony environment for 1 or 2 days slept more than same-age sister bees that were caged individually or in small groups in the lab. Furthermore, bees placed in mesh-enclosures in the colony, that prevented direct contact with nestmates, slept similarly to bees freely moving in the colony. These results suggest that social signals that do not require direct or close distance interactions between bees are sufficiently rich to encompass almost the entire effect of the colony on sleep. Our findings provide a remarkable example of social experience-dependent modulation of an essential biological process.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)404-411
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.


  • Apis mellifera
  • Sleep need
  • Social environment
  • Wake experience


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