Grüter, Christoph Dr.

Dr. Christoph Grüter
Group leader

Curriculum Vitae

Since 2015 Assistant professor/group leader, University of Mainz, Germany.
2013 – 2015 Group leader, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
2012 – 2013 Post-doc, University of São Paulo, Brazil, with F. Nascimento
2008 – 2012 Post-doc, University of Sussex, UK, with F. Ratnieks
2004 – 2008 PhD, University of Bern, Switzerland, and University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Topic: Social learning of food odours in honeybees (Apis mellifera) (supervised by W.M. Farina, Argentina)
2002 – 2003 MSc, University of Bern, Switzerland. Topic: Monogamy and biparental care in the cichlid fish Eretmodus cyanostictus (supervised by B. Taborsky)
2001 – 2002 Studies in Zoology and Molecular Biology, University of Rome Tre, Italy (Erasmus program)
1998 – 2001 BSc in Zoology, University of Bern, Switzerland

Research Interests

Our group investigates the organisation and coordination of collective activities in insect societies. We study the behaviour of individual workers, their decision-making strategies and the link between individual decision rules and collective behavioural patterns. Our main model systems are the honey bee Apis mellifera, the stingless bee Tetragonisca angustula and the two ant species Lasius niger and Temnothorax nylanderi. We combine behavioural experiments, genomics and agent-based simulation modeling in our research.

1. Information-use strategies in ants and honeybees: from individual to collective behaviour

In many social insect species, workers communicate the location of profitable food sources or nest-sites to their nest-mates. Honeybee foragers, for example, use the famous waggle dance to advertise profitable resources. Foragers of many ant and some bee species lay pheromone trails. However, under some circumstances searching independently (scouting) or relying on past experiences (personal information) might be a more successful strategy. We study the ecological circumstances that favour different information-use strategies and try to understand how individual decisions lead to collective behavioural patterns. Furthermore, we try to find out which genes affect information-use strategies.

Representative papers:

Grüter C and Leadbeater E (2014) Insights from insects about adaptive social information use. Trends Ecol. Evol. 29:177-184.

Grüter C, Czaczkes TJ and Ratnieks FLW (2011) Decision-making in ant foragers (Lasius niger) facing conflicting private and social information. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 65:141-148.

Grüter C, Balbuena MS and Farina WM (2008) Informational conflicts created by the waggle dance. Proc. R. Soc. B 275:1321-1327.

2. Colony organisation and division of labour in stingless bees (Meliponini)

Division of labour is important for the ecological success of social insects. In most species, workers perform different tasks at different ages (temporal caste systems). For example, foraging is often performed by older workers. In some species, however, workers are morphologically specialised for particular tasks (physical caste systems). While division of labour has been extensively studied in honey bees and ants, little is known about colony organisation and division of labour in the largest group of highly eusocial bees, the stingless bees (Meliponini). Stingless bees show diverse life-histories, including both temporal and physical caste systems. We try to understand the costs and benefits associated with different types division of labour.

Representative papers:

Grüter C, Segers F, Menezes C, Vollet-Neto A, Falcon T, von Zuben L, Bitondi M, Nascimento F and Almeida E. Repeated evolution of soldier sub-castes suggests parasitism drives social complexity in stingless bees. Nature Communications, in press.

Segers FHID, von Zuben L and Grüter C (2016) Local differences in parasitism and competition shape defensive investment in a polymorphic eusocial bee. Ecology, 97, 417-426.

Grüter C, Menezes C, Imperatriz-Fonseca V and Ratnieks FLW (2012) A morphologically specialised soldier caste improves colony defense in a Neotropical eusocial bee. PNAS, 109, 1182-1186. (*co-first author)


Peng, T, Segers FHID, Nascimento, FS, Grüter C. Resource profitability, but not caffeine affects individual and collective foraging in the stingless bee Plebeia droryanaJournal of Experimental Biology, in press.

Baudier K, Ostwald M, Grüter C, Segers F, Roubik D, Pavlic T, Pratt S, Fewell J. Changing of the guard: mixed specialization and flexibility in nest defense (Tetragonisca angustula). Behavioral Ecology, in press.

Mateus S, Ferreira-Caliman M, Menezes C, Grüter C. Beyond temporal-polyethism: division of labor in the eusocial bee Melipona marginataInsectes Sociaux, in press.

Grüter C, Czaczkes T. J. Communication in social insects and how it is shaped by experience. Animal Behaviour, in press.

I’Anson Price, R., Dulex, N., Vial, N., Vincent, C. & Grüter, C. 2019. Honeybees forage more successfully without the "dance language" in challenging environments. Science Advances, 5: eaat0450.

Grüter C. 2018. Repeated switches from cooperative to selfish worker oviposition during stingless bee evolution. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 31:1843-1851.

Glaser S, Grüter C. 2018. Ants (Temnothorax nylanderi) adjust tandem running when food source distance exposes them to greater risks. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 72: 40.

Grüter, C., Jongepier, E., Foitzik, S. (2018) Insect societies fight back: the evolution of defensive traits against social parasites. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 373: 20170200.

Grüter C, Wüst M, Cipriano AP, Nascimento FS. 2018. Tandem recruitment and foraging in the ponerine ant Pachycondyla harpax (Fabricius). Neotropical Entomology, 47:742749.

Grüter C, Segers F, Santos L, Hammel B, Zimmermann U and Nascimento F. 2017. Enemy recognition is linked to soldier size in a polymorphic stingless bee. Biology Letters13: 20170511.

Grüter C*, Segers F*, Menezes C, Vollet-Neto A, Falcon T, von Zuben L, Bitondi M, Nascimento F and Almeida E. (2017) Repeated evolution of soldier sub-castes suggests parasitism drives social complexity in stingless bees. Nature Communications, 8: 4. (*contributed equally)

Sauthier R, I'Anson Price R and Grüter C. (2017) Worker size in honeybees and its relationship with season and foraging distance. Apidologie, 48: 234-246.

I'Anson Price R, Grüter C, Hughes WOH and Evison, S.E.F. (2016) Symmetry breaking in mass-recruiting ants: extent of foraging biases depends on resource quality. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 70: 1813-1820.

Pasquier G, Grüter C. (2016) Individual learning and exploration are linked to colony foraging success in a mass-recruiting ant. Behavioral Ecology 27: 1702-1709.

Grüter C, von Zuben L, Segers FHID, Cunningham P (2016) Warfare in stingless bees. Insectes Sociaux 63: 223-236.

egers FHID, Von Zuben LG, Grüter C (2016) Local differences in parasitism and competition shape defensive investment in a polymorphic eusocial bee. Ecology 97: 417-426.

Grüter C, Keller L (2016) Inter-caste communication in social insects. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 38: 6-11.

Hammel B, Vollet-Neto A, Menezes C, Nascimento FS, Engels W, Grüter C (2016) Soldiers in a stingless bee: work rate and task repertoire suggest guards are an elite force. The American Naturalist 187: 120-129.

I'Anson Price R, Grüter C (2015) Why, when and where did honey bee dance communication evolve? Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 3: 125.

Grüter C, Maitre D, Blakey A, Cole R, Ratnieks FLW (2015) Collective decision making in a heterogeneous environment: Lasius niger colonies preferentially forage at easy to learn locations. Animal Behaviour 104:189-195

Czaczkes TJ, Grüter C, Ratnieks FLW (2015) Trail pheromones: an integrative view of their role in colony organization Annual Review of Entomology 60:581-599

Segers FHID, Menezes C, Vollet-Neto A, Lambert D, Grüter C (2015) Soldier production in a stingless bee depends on rearing location and nurse behaviour. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 69:613-623

Grüter C, Leadbeater E (2014) Insights from insects about adaptive social information use. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 29:177-184

Czaczkes TJ, Grüter C, Ratnieks FLW (2014) Rapid up- and down-regulation of pheromone signalling due to trail crowding in the ant Lasius niger. Behaviour 151:669-682

Schürch R, Grüter C (2014) Dancing bees improve colony foraging success as long-term benefits outweigh short-term costs. PLoS ONE 9:e104660

Al Toufailia HM, Grüter C, Ratnieks FLW (2013) Persistence to unrewarding feeding locations by honeybee foragers (Apis mellifera): the effects of experience, resource profitability and season. Ethology 119:1096-1106

Al Toufailia HM, Couvillon MJ, Ratnieks FLW, Grüter C (2013) Honey bee waggle dance communication: signal meaning and signal noise affect dance follower behaviour. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 67:549-556

Czaczkes TJ, Grüter C, Ratnieks FLW (2013) Negative feedback in ants: crowding results in less trail pheromone deposition. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 10:20121009

Czaczkes TJ, Grüter C, Ellis L, Wood E, Ratnieks FLW (2013) Ant foraging on complex trails: route learning and the role of trail pheromones in Lasius niger Journal of Experimental Biology 216:188-197

Grüter C, Schürch R, Farina WM (2013) Task-partitioning in insect societies: non-random direct material transfers affect both colony efficiency and information flow. Journal of Theoretical Biology 327:23-33

Grüter C, Segers FHID, Ratnieks FLW (2013) Social learning strategies in honeybee foragers: do the costs of using private information affect the use of social information? Animal Behaviour 85:1443-1449

Farina WM, Grüter C, Arenas A (2012) Olfactory information transfer during recruitment in honey bees. In: Galizia CG, Eisenhardt D, Giurfa M (eds) Honeybee Neurobiology and Behavior - A Tribute to Randolf Menzel. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 89-101

Grüter C, Menezes C*, Imperatriz-Fonseca VL, Ratnieks FLW (2012) A morphologically specialized soldier caste improves colony defence in a Neotropical eusocial bee. PNAS 109:1182-1186 (*co-first author)

Bigio G, Grüter C, Ratnieks FLW (2012) Comparing alternative methods for holding virgin honey bee queens for one week in mailing cages before mating. PLoS ONE 7:e50150

Grüter C, Schürch R, Czaczkes TJ, Taylor K, Durance T, Jones SM, Ratnieks FLW (2012) Negative feedback enables fast and flexible collective decision-making in ants. PLoS ONE 7:e44501

Jones SM et al. (2012) The role of wax and resin in the nestmate recognition system of a stingless bee, Tetragonisca angustula. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 66:1-12

Czaczkes TJ, Grüter C, Jones SM, Ratnieks FLW (2012) Uncovering the complexity of ant foraging trails. Communicative and Integrative Biology 5:78-80

Czaczkes TJ, Grüter C, Jones SM, Ratnieks FLW (2011) Synergy between social and private information increases foraging efficiency in ants. Biology Letters 7:521-524

van Zweden JS, Grüter C, Jones SM, Ratnieks FLW (2011) Hovering guards of the stingless bee Tetragonisca angustula increase colony defensive perimeter as shown by intra- and inter-specific comparisons. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 65:1277-1282

Grüter C, Moore H, Firmin N, Helanterä H, Ratnieks FLW (2011) Flower constancy in honey bee foragers (Apis mellifera) depends on ecologically realistic rewards. Journal of Experimental Biology 214:1397-1402

Grüter C, Ratnieks FLW (2011) Flower constancy in insect pollinators: Adaptive foraging behaviour or cognitive limitation? Communicative and Integrative Biology 4: 1-4

Grüter C, Ratnieks FLW (2011) Honeybee foragers increase the use of waggle dance information when private information becomes unrewarding. Animal Behaviour 81:949-954

Grüter C (2011) Communication in social insects: sophisticated problem solving by groups of tiny-brained animals. In: Menzel R, Fischer J (eds) Animal Thinking: Contemporary Issues in Comparative Cognition. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp 163-174

Wheeler B, Searcy WA, Christiansen MH, Corballis MC, Fischer J, Grüter C, Margoliash D, Owren MJ, Price T, Seyfarth R, Wild M (2011) Communication. In: Animal thinking: Contemporary issues in comparative cognition. Eds.: Fischer, J., Menzel, R., Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Grüter C, Czaczkes TJ, Ratnieks FLW (2011) Decision-making in ant foragers (Lasius niger) facing conflicting private and social information. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 65:141-148

Grüter C, Kärcher M, Ratnieks FLW (2011) The natural history of nest defence in a stingless bee, Tetragonisca angustula (Latreille) (Hymenoptera: Apidae), with two distinct types of entrance guards. Neotropical Enomology 40:55-61

Grüter C, Leadbeater E, Ratnieks FLW (2010) Social learning: the importance of copying others. Current Biology 20:R683-R685

Farina WM, Grüter C (2009) Trophallaxis - A mechanism of information transfer. In: Jarau S, Hrncir M (eds) Food exploitation by social insects: Ecological, behavioral, and theoretical approaches. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida., pp 173-187

Grüter C, Balbuena MS, Farina WM (2009) Retention of long-term memories in different age groups of honeybee (Apis mellifera) workers. Insectes Sociaux 56:385-387

Grüter C, Farina WM (2009) Past experiences affect interaction patterns among foragers and hive-mates in honeybees. Ethology 115:790-797

Grüter C, Farina WM (2009) Why do honeybee foragers follow waggle dances? Trends in Ecology & Evolution 24:584-585

Grüter C, Farina WM (2009) The honeybee waggle dance: can we follow the steps? Trends in Ecology & Evolution 24:242-247

Grüter C, Arenas A, Farina WM (2008) Does pollen function as a reward for honeybees in associative learning? Insectes Sociaux 55:425-427

Grüter C, Balbuena MS, Farina WM (2008) Informational conflicts created by the waggle dance Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 275:1321-1327

Diaz PC, Grüter C, Farina WM
(2007) Floral scents affect the distribution of hive bees around dancers. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 61:1589-1597

Grüter C, Farina WM (2007) Nectar distribution and its relation to food quality in honeybee (Apis mellifera) colonies. Insectes Sociaux 54:87-94

Farina WM, Grüter C, Acosta LE, Mc Cabe S (2007) Honeybees learn floral odors while receiving nectar from foragers within the hive Naturwissenschaften 94:55-60

Grüter C, Acosta LE, Farina WM (2006) Propagation of olfactory information within the honeybee hive. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 60:707-715

Farina WM, Grüter C*, Diaz PC (2005) Social learning of floral odours within the honeybee hive Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 272:1923-1928 (*co-first author)

Grüter C, Taborsky B (2005) Sex ratio and the sexual conflict about brood care in a biparental mouthbrooder. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 58:44-52

Grüter C, Taborsky B (2004) Mouthbrooding and biparental care: an unexpected combination, but male brood care pays. Animal Behaviour 68:1283-1289