My research group uses the advanced eusocial honey bee as a model system to study the origins of social life-histories. We want to understand how integration of genetic, physiological and environmental factors that pace life-cycle progression in solitary organisms are adopted and altered to give rise to social life-styles.
Our current work focuses on regulation of social behavior and longevity in castes of primary reproductives (queens) and non-reproductive helpers (workers). We study the roles of TOR (target of rapamycin) and insulin/insulin-like signaling, which are conserved and central control-pathways for nutrient-, energy-, and growth factor responses. These signaling systems have pleiotropic effects as regulators of solitary life-history traits, including reproduction and lifespan. Our findings suggest they were targets for natural selection during honey bee social evolution; that as a result, their conserved action has in part been changed; and that they currently act to control central aspects of reproductive caste differentiation, social behavior, and plasticity in aging.
My group extends to the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, where I am Associate Professor-II. At the University of Life Sciences, we study aging processes that are affected by the social environment of the honey bee. Our current emphasis is on plasticity of physiological, structural and cognitive senescence in the brain.