Genes associated with hot defensive bee ball in the Japanese honeybee, Apis cerana japonica

Takahiro Kamioka, Hiromu C. Suzuki, Atsushi Ugajin, Yuta Yamaguchi, Masakazu Nishimura, Tetsuhiko Sasaki, Masato Ono, Masakado Kawata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The Japanese honeybee, Apis cerana japonica, shows a specific defensive behavior, known as a “hot defensive bee ball,” used against the giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia. Hundreds of honeybee workers surround a hornet and make a “bee ball” during this behavior. They maintain the ball for around 30 min, and its core temperature can reach 46. Although various studies have been conducted on the characteristics of this behavior, its molecular mechanism has yet to be elucidated. Here, we performed a comprehensive transcriptomic analysis to detect candidate genes related to balling behavior. Results: The expression levels of differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in the brain, flight muscle, and fat body were evaluated during ball formation and incubation at 46 °C. The DEGs detected during ball formation, but not in response to heat, were considered important for ball formation. The expression of genes related to rhodopsin signaling were increased in all tissues during ball formation. DEGs detected in one or two tissues during ball formation were also identified. Conclusions: Given that rhodopsin is involved in temperature sensing in Drosophila, the rhodopsin-related DEGs in A. cerana japonica may be involved in temperature sensing specifically during ball formation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number31
JournalBMC Ecology and Evolution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec


  • Apis cerana japonica
  • Differential gene expression
  • Hot defensive bee ball
  • RNA-seq
  • Rhodopsin
  • Thermal sensitivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Science(all)


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