Eusocial insects divide their labour so that individuals working inside the nest are affected by external conditions through a cascade of social interactions. Honey bees (Apis mellifera) transfer food and information via mouth-to-mouth social feeding, ie trophallaxis, a process known to be modulated by the rate of food flow at feeders and familiarity of food’s scent. Little is understood about how aversive foraging conditions such as predation and con-specific competition affect trophallaxis. We hypothesized that aversive conditions have an impact on food transfer inside the colony. Here we explore the effect of foragers’ aversive experience on downstream trophallaxis in a cage paradigm. Each cage contained one group of bees that was separated from feeders by mesh and allowed to feed only through trophallaxis, and another group that had access to feeders and self-specialized to either forage or distribute food. Our results show that aversive foraging conditions increase non-foragers’ trophallaxis with bees restricted from feeder access when food is scented, and have the opposite effect when food is unscented. We discuss potential behavioural mechanisms and implications for the impact of aversive conditions such as malaise inducing toxins, predation, and con-specific competition.
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