, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 229-237

Assessing the benefits of cooperation in honeybee foraging: search costs, forage quality, and competitive ability

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The foragers in honeybee colonies cooperate by sharing information about rich sources of food. This study examines three hypotheses about the benefits of this cooperation: (H1) it decreases foragers' costs in finding new food sources, (H2) it increases the quality of the food sources located by foragers, and (H3) it increases the ability of a colony's foragers to compete for high-quality food sources. To test each hypothesis, we identified a critical pattern in the foraging process which, if observed, would cast doubt on that hypothesis, and then gathered data to check for these patterns. Our observations do not support the first hypothesis, but do support the second and third. These results, in addition to helping us understand the functional significance of the honeybee's dance language, provide insights into the colonial organization of foraging by honeybees.