Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 109–124

Modelling collective foraging by means of individual behaviour rules in honey-bees

  • Han de Vries
  • Jacobus C. Biesmeijer

DOI: 10.1007/s002650050522

Cite this article as:
de Vries, H. & Biesmeijer, J. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1998) 44: 109. doi:10.1007/s002650050522


An individual-oriented model is constructed which simulates the collective foraging behaviour of a colony of honey-bees, Apis mellifera. Each bee follows the same set of behavioural rules. Each rule consists of a set of conditions followed by the behavioural act to be performed if the conditions are fulfilled. The set of conditions comprises the state of external information available to the bee (e.g. the dancing of other bees) and internal information variables (like memorised location of a food source and homing motivation). The rules are partly observational (i.e. they capture the observable regularities between the present external information and the individual bee's behaviour), and partly involve hypothesised internal-state variables (e.g. abandoning tendency and homing motivation), because no observable (physiological) aspect has as yet been detected in the bee which correlates with changes in the internal motivation. Our aim is to obtain a set of rules that is necessary and sufficient for the generation of the collective foraging behaviour observed in real bees. We simulated an experiment performed by Seeley et al. in which a colony of honey-bees chooses between two nectar sources of different profitabilities which are switched at intervals. A good fit between observed and simulated collective forager patterns was obtained when the model included rules in which the bees (1) relied on the information acquired from previous flights to a source (e.g. profitability and time of day when the source was found), (2) used positional information obtained by attending recruitment dances and (3) did not abandon a (temporarily) deteriorated source too fast or too slowly. The significance of the following issues is discussed: the role of internal and external information, source profitability, the spatial precision of the dance communication, the ability to search for a source after the source position has been transmitted, the tendency to abandon a deteriorated source, and the concepts of scout, recruit, (un)employed forager, and foraging history.

Key words Honey-bee  Collective behavior  Collective foraging  Communication  Individual-oriented model“It may be that. You never can tell with bees.” from Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne (1926).

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Han de Vries
    • 1
  • Jacobus C. Biesmeijer
    • 1
  1. 1.Ethology and Socio-Ecology Group, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80.086, 3508 TB Utrecht, The Netherlands e-mail:, Tel.: +31-30-2535403, Fax: +31-30-2521105NL