Welcome to the site map for the North Carolina Honey Bee Research Consortium

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The purpose of the North Carolina Honey Bee Research Consortium (NCHBRC) is to promote scientific research and training focused on the honey bee, Apis mellifera, as a model organism for biological systems and biomedical applications.

At the core of the NCHBRC lies multiple integrative approaches aimed at understanding biological processes and phenomena across all levels of biological organization (genes, cells, organisms, and societies), and NCHBRC associates address fundamental problems in the modern life sciences with innovative research collaborations.

A second, equally important mission of the NCHBRC is to provide multi-disciplinary academic training to all interested students through exchange of laboratory members, research visits, and the organization of an annual student research conference in North Carolina.  Students will have the opportunity to receive training in behavioral ecology, neurophysiology, molecular and cellular biology, functional genomics, statistical analysis and mathematical modeling, thereby providing them with the fundamental knowledge necessary for pursuing careers in a wide variety of fields.




Social insects have played an important role in evolutionary research, and honey bees have served as a model system for such studies. We are interested in how such complex social systems evolved by studying kin selection, division of labor, and individual- and colony-level adaptations.
Primary research programs: Rueppell, Schneider, Tarpy



Part of our research involves understanding the interaction between honey bees and their environment. For example, how has the Africanized honey bee has been so ecologically dominant in the New World? How well do different genotypes of honey bee perform in different habitats? How does a colony regulate its foraging effort to optimize the rate of food intake?
Primary research programs: Rueppell, Schneider, Tarpy


Colony life history

Our research investigates the life history of bees. This includes the division of labor of workers as they age, demography within colonies, and the differences in lifespan within and between castes. For example, we are in the link between the high rates of reproduction and the extraordinary life spans of social insect queens to try and understand genetic effects on social insect aging. We are also investigating the complex worker-queen and queen-queen interactions that take place during colony reproductive events, whereby new queens are reared and fight to the death to reclaim the nest.
Primary research programs: Rueppell, Schneider, Tarpy


Individual behavior

Honey bees have been central to studies of animal behavior and behavioral ecology, and thus behavior plays a dominant role in the research of all NCHBRC programs. Honey bee behavior represents a rich tapestry of interconnected processes, which we can now study at the molecular, organismal, and colony levels. Specific emphases in our research include understanding the communication signals among nestmates, mating behavior, foraging behavior, individual- and colony-level reproduction, and learning. For example, we investigate how the vibration signal modulates worker activity within a hive to coordinate tasks. Moreover, we are studying how muscarinic cholinergic structures in the bee brain produces growth of brain centers involved in learning and memory, which improves the ability of bees to discriminate nestmates from non-nestmates.
Primary research programs: Fahrbach, Grozinger, Rueppell, Schneider, Tarpy



We perform anatomical dissections of the honey bee central nervous system to determine how behavior is regulated. We also use primary cultures of honey bee neurons to determine the factors that control dendritic growth in the adult insect. These cell culture studies are designed to identify the hormones and neurotransmitters that are involved in dendritic growth. This in virto approach permits the manipulation of gene expression using methods of cell transformation and RNA interference. We are planning both neuroanatomical and behavior studies to examine in detail the role of cholinergic transmission in honey bee behavioral plasticity.
Primary research programs: Fahrbach, Grozinger



The hormonal control of individuals is important to understand the behavior and function of honey bees. For example, we study the effects of cholinergic agonists of honey bee brain structure and behavior, as well as identify the molecular components of the honey bee brain clock. We also investigate how the physiology of workers and queens change during the onset of reproduction.
Primary research programs: Fahrbach, Grozinger, Rueppell



Pheromones are chemical communication signals that regulate multiple aspects of colony function. Understanding how social cues such as pheromones affect individual behavior has been an important area of social insect research. We study how queen mandibular pheromone (QMP) influences worker behavior and gene expression in the brain. Moreover, we study how changes in QMP profiles signal differences in queen age, mating status, and genotype, particularly in Africanized versus European bees.
Primary research programs: Grozinger, Schneider



We are currently at the beginning of an exciting new era in honey bee research, because the entire sequence of the honey bee genome has recently been completed. As a result of these breakthroughs, we can now explore the molecular basis of social behavior. For example, we use microarray technology to determine candidate genes that are involved in foraging behavior, the regulation of reproduction, and nestmate communication. Moreover, we use QTL analyses to determine the genetic architechture of colony-level foraging behavior. Finally, we employ traditional Mendelian genetics--by using instrumental insemination of honey bee queens--to determine whole-genotype effects.
Primary research programs: Fahrbach, Grozinger, Rueppell, Schneider, Tarpy




Wake Forrest University
PI: Susan Fahrbach

Research interests

Our lab uses the honey bee as a model to address questions of fundamental interest to all neuroscientists: How do hormones shape the developing nervous system? How does experience alter the brain? We address these questions by focusing on the post-embryonic development of the nervous system with an emphasis on metamorphosis and the adult stage of life.

Current projects

Current research in our laboratory asks why nuclear hormone receptors associated with early development are expressed in the bee brain when metamorphosis is complete, how foraging experience increases the volume of the mushroom body neuropil in forager honey bees, and how the circadian clock in the honey bee brain controls behavior. We are also participating in a 5-year, multi-investigator project funded by the National Science Foundation called "BeeSpace" that is using the honey bee to investigate the relationship between nature and nurture by identifying behaviorally relevant patterns of gene expression in the honey bee brain (http://www.iqb.uiuc.edu/beespace/).


Contact information

TEL: (336) 758-5980
LAB: (336) 758-4841
FAX: (336) 758-6008
EMAIL: Fahrbach@wfu.edu
WEB: www.wfu.edu/academics/biology/faculty/fahrbach.htm


NC State University
Genomics Program
PI: Christina Grozinger

Research interests

We are studying the genes and molecular mechanisms underlying social behavior in honey bees. Our research focuses mainly on understanding how pheromones regulate honey bee worker behavior. This research covers a broad range of techniques and fields, from functional genomics, cell biology, neurobiology, behavior, as well as comparative studies with Drosophila.

Current projects

Pheromones are blends of chemicals which cause innate, steriotypes behavioral and physiological responses, and honey bees are the only species in which multiple pheromones have been characterized, which regulate a wide variety of behaviors. We areusing microarrays to monitor changes in brain gene expression that occur upon pheromone exposure. These studies will allow us to determine if pheromones cause permanent changes in neuronal properties, and, by tracking the expression of these genes, we can determine if specific neural networks are involved and if specific sets of genes are associated with certain behaviors. We are also identifying genes associated with the dramatic changes in behavior that occur in queen bees after mating.


Contact information

TEL: (919) 513-7857
FAX: (919) 515-7746
EMAIL: christina_grozinger@ncsu.edu
WEB: http://entomology.ncsu.edu/grozinger



University of North Carolina
PI: Olav Rueppell

Research interests

My students and I are interested in the life history of honey bees and how it interacts with their behavior. Particularly, we focus on the behavioral development and aging of honey bees, comparing workers, queens, and males.

Current projects

Our research spans all levels of biological organization, from genes to societies (and back). We are studying the genetic architecture of quantitative traits and employing bioinformatics and functional genomic tools to follow up on candidate genes. We are looking for cellular correlates of the tremendous life-span differences among honey bee castes. At the organismal level, we search for biomarkers of senescence in old bees, and we are addressing the relationship between individual life history and colony-level demographic processes.


Contact information

TEL: (336) 256-2591
LAB: (336) 334-3180
FAX: (336) 334-5839
EMAIL: olav_rueppell@uncg.edu
WEB: www.uncg.edu/~o_ruppel



University of North Carolina
PI: Stanley S. Schneider

Research interests

My lab studies the behavioral ecology of honey bees, particularly how communication signals are used to adjust collective decisions to changing colony needs. We also study the African honey bee and the factors that contribute to its ability to displace European honey bees in the Americas.

Current projects

We are presently conducting a series of studies on the "vibration signal" of the honey bee, including the physiological responses elicited by the signal, and how the signal is used to adjust the allocation of labor under different colony conditions. We also study how the vibration signal is used during queen replacement, swarming and house hunting. Additionally, we are presently studying "nest usurpation" by African bees, which is a form of reproductive parasitism that may play an important role in the spread of the African bee in the southwestern U.S.


Contact information

TEL: (704) 687-4053
LAB: (704) 687-3061
FAX: (704) 687-3128
EMAIL: sschnedr@email.uncc.edu
WEB: :www.bioweb.uncc.edu/Faculty/Schneider/index.htm



NC State University
Apiculture Program
PI: David R. Tarpy

Research Interests

We are interested in the behavioral ecology of honey bees, particularly as it pertains to the adaptive function of behavior. We are also involved in practical aspects of honey bee biology by developing novel management practices that can be directly applied to honey bee management.

Current projects

We are presently involved in numerous research projects. We are using PCR techniques to determine the genetic structure of honey bee colonies to determine the mating numbers of queens. We are also using the instrumental insemination technique to determine the adaptive benefits of multiple mating by queen bees. We are also performing a state-wide comparison of different stocks of honey bees to determine their efficacy within North Carolina.


Contact information

TEL: (919) 515-1660
LAB: (919) 513-7702
FAX: (919) 515-7746
EMAIL: david_tarpy@ncsu.edu
WEB: http://entomology.ncsu.edu/apiculture



If you are interested in being affiliated with our group, please contact one of our members directly:

Susan Fahrbach, Wake Forrest University
TEL: (336) 758-5980; EMAIL: fahrbach@wfu.edu

Christina Grozinger, North Carolina State University
TEL:(919) 513-7857; EMAIL: christina_grozinger@ncsu.edu

Olav Rueppell, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
TEL: (336) 256-2591; EMAIL: olav_rueppell@uncg.edu

Stanley Schneider, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
TEL: (704) 687-4053 ; EMAIL: sschnedr@email.uncc.edu

David Tarpy, North Carolina State University
TEL: (919) 515-1660; EMAIL: david_tarpy@ncsu.edu