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Social behavior and the superorganism: Implications for disease and stability in complex animal societies and Colony Collapse Disorder in Honeybees


  • Niccolo Caldararo

    () (Department of Anthropology - San Francisco State University)


Sociability, mass response to threat, food production and food sharing and an adaptable communication system are a suite of traits involved in the evolution of complex society in animals. Cycles of interaction characterize members of such societies and those of species in association that can affect disease structure in time and virulence. Colony Collapse Disorder (in North America, Honey Bee Depopulation Syndrome, or HBDS elsewhere) shows similarity to a number of mass behavioural responses in other social animals, especially in ants. A number of questions regarding the cause of CCD continues to make progress in fighting the disease difficult. Here information is provided that may result in an isolation of factors to identify the syndrome of effects that lead to the disease, based on studies of disease avoidance and illness behaviour in other animal species. Most of the work to date to discover a cause has focused on a direct relationship between a pathogen or parasite or environmental condition and the Disorder. Dysfunctional mass behaviour is even seen in humans, as during the Black Plague. Disease avoidance is an important survival tactic for many animals and if the mechanism is modified by a pathogen or toxin unusual outcomes may result. In complex animal societies the opportunity for other forms of disruption of social life are numerous.

Suggested Citation

  • Niccolo Caldararo, 2015. "Social behavior and the superorganism: Implications for disease and stability in complex animal societies and Colony Collapse Disorder in Honeybees," Interdisciplinary Description of Complex Systems - scientific journal, Croatian Interdisciplinary Society Provider Homepage:, vol. 13(1), pages 82-98.
  • Handle: RePEc:zna:indecs:v:13:y:2015:i:1:p:82-98

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Adam G. Hart & Francis L. W. Ratnieks, 2002. "Waste management in the leaf-cutting ant Atta colombica," Behavioral Ecology, International Society for Behavioral Ecology, vol. 13(2), pages 224-231, March.
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    More about this item


    colony collapse disorder; complex animal societies; disease avoidance; illness and behaviour;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being


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