Med. Weter. 75 (2), 93-106, 2019

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Honey bee as an alternative model invertebrate organism
Insects perfectly fit the flagship principle of animal research – 3R: to reduce (the number of animals), to replace (animals with alternative models) and to refine (methods). Bees have the most important advantages of a model organism: they cause minimal ethical controversy, they have a small and fully known genome, and they permit the use of many experimental techniques. Bees have a fully functional DNMT toolkit. Therefore, they are used as models in biomedical/genetic research, e.g. in research on the development of cancer or in the diagnostics of mental and neuroleptic diseases in humans. The reversion of aging processes in bees offers hope for progress in gerontology research. The cellular mechanisms of learning and memory coding, as well as the indicators of biochemical immunity parameters, are similar or analogous to those in humans, so bees may become useful in monitoring changes in behavior and metabolism. Bees are very well suited for studies on the dose of the substance applied to determine the lethal dose or the effect of a formula on life expectancy. Honeybees have proven to be an effective tool for studying the effects of a long-term consumption of stimulants, as well as for observing behavioral changes and developing addictions at the individual and social levels, as well as for investigating the effects of continuously delivering the same dose of a substance. The genomic and physiological flexibility of bees in dividing tasks among workers in a colony makes it possible to create a Single- Cohort Colony (SCC) in which peers compared perform different tasks. Moreover behavioral methods (e.g. Proboscis Extension Reflex – PER, Sting Extension Reflex – SER, free flying target discrimination tasks or the cap pushing response) make it possible to analyse changes occurring in honeybee brains during learning and remembering. Algorithms of actions are created based on the behavior of a colony or individual, e.g. Artificial Bee Colony Algorithm (ABCA). Honeybees are also model organisms for profiling the so-called intelligence of a swarm or collective intelligence. Additionally, they serve as models for guidance systems and aviation technologies. Bees have inspired important projects in robotics, such as B-droid, Robobee and The Green Brain Project. It has also been confirmed that the apian sense of smell can be used to detect explosive devices, such as TNT, or drugs (including heroin, cocaine, amphetamines and cannabis). This inconspicuous little insect can revolutionize the world of science and contribute to the solution of many scientific problems as a versatile model.
Key words: honeybee, Apis mellifera, laboratory animals, model organisms, insects, invertebrates