Bee consensi | Blogads

Bee consensi

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, May 2nd, 2006

In today’s Times, a summary of a new paper by Thomas D. Seeley about honey bee swarming behavior:

When hives of honeybees get too big, they split up. The old queen flies off with a retinue of 10,000 bees or so ‘ a swarm.

Over the course of several days, as the swarm waits clustered together on a tree branch, scout bees search for real estate and come back to do waggle dances to promote their finds.

Scouts can be recruited from one site to a better one and start dancing for it. Eventually, agreement is reached, and by the time the swarm is ready to fly the scouts are unified in leading the swarm to a new home.

How do the bees decide? By consensus? Voting? After several experiments, the researchers concluded that the swarm does not wait for consensus. It senses when there are enough scouts concentrating on one site ‘ a “quorum” of 15 to 20 ‘ and that’s when the bees get ready to move. As they warm up their flight muscles for an hour or so, the rest of the scouts usually come around to supporting the best site, so a consensus is achieved before flight.

What’s good about this process, the authors say, is that autonomous individuals gather information and present a wide range of knowledge in the open marketplace of waggle dancing.

(Sidenote: I’m pretty sure Seeley taught my intro biology class 25 years ago.)

Facebook comments

Our Tweets