Standard methods for maintaining adult Apis mellifera in cages under in vitro laboratory conditions

Williams, Geoffrey Rhys; Alaux, Cédric; Costa, Cecilia; Csáki, Támas; Doublet, Vincent; Eisenhardt, Dorothea; Fries, Ingemar; Kuhn, Rolf; McMahon, Dino P.; Medrzycki, Piotr; Murray, Tomás E.; Natsopoulou, Myrsini E.; Neumann, Peter; Oliver, Randy; Paxton, Robert J.; Pernal, Stephen F.; Shutler, Dave; Tanner, Gina; van der Steen, Jozef J. M. and Brodschneider, Robert (2013). Standard methods for maintaining adult Apis mellifera in cages under in vitro laboratory conditions. In: Dietemann, Vincent; Ellis, James D.; Neumann, Peter (eds.) The COLOSS BEEBOOK, Volume I: standard methods for Apis mellifera research. Journal of Apicultural Research: Vol. 52 (pp. 1-36). Treforest: International Bee Research Association IBRA 10.3896/IBRA.

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Adult honey bees are maintained in vitro in laboratory cages for a variety of purposes. For example, researchers may wish to perform experiments on honey bees caged individually or in groups to study aspects of parasitology, toxicology, or physiology under highly controlled conditions, or they may cage whole frames to obtain newly emerged workers of known age cohorts. Regardless of purpose, researchers must manage a number of variables, ranging from selection of study subjects (e.g. honey bee subspecies) to experimental environment (e.g. temperature and relative humidity). Although decisions made by researchers may not necessarily jeopardize the scientific rigour of an experiment, they may profoundly affect results, and may make comparisons with similar, but independent, studies difficult. Focusing primarily on workers, we provide recommendations for maintaining adults under in vitro laboratory conditions, whilst acknowledging gaps in our understanding that require further attention. We specifically describe how to properly obtain honey bees, and how to choose appropriate cages, incubator conditions, and food to obtain biologically relevant and comparable experimental results. Additionally, we provide broad recommendations for experimental design and statistical analyses of data that arises from experiments using caged honey bees. The ultimate goal of this, and of all COLOSS BEEBOOK papers, is not to stifle science with restrictions, but rather to provide researchers with the appropriate tools to generate comparable data that will build upon our current understanding of honey bees.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH) > Institute of Bee Health

UniBE Contributor:

Williams, Geoffrey Rhys; Neumann, Peter and Tanner, Gina


500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)
600 Technology > 630 Agriculture






Journal of Apicultural Research


International Bee Research Association IBRA




Susanne Portner

Date Deposited:

15 Aug 2014 16:31

Last Modified:

09 Sep 2017 02:13

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Apis mellifera, honey bee, colony losses, hoarding, cage, in vitro, laboratory, COLOSS, Nosema, toxicology, BEEBOOK




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