Positional Communication and Private Information in Honeybee Foraging Models

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Abstract

Honeybees coordinate foraging efforts across vast areas through a complex system of advertising and recruitment. One mechanism for coordination is the waggle dance, a movement pattern which carries positional information about food sources. However, recent evidence suggests that recruited foragers may not use the dance’s positional information to the degree that has traditionally been believed. We model bee colony foraging to investigate the value of sharing food source position information in different environments. We find that in several environments, relying solely on private information about previously encountered food sources is more efficient than sharing information. Relying on private information leads to a greater diversity of forage sites and can decrease over-harvesting of sources. This is beneficial in environments with small quantities of nectar per flower, but may be detrimental in nectar-rich environments. Efficiency depends on both the environment and a balance between exploiting high-quality food sources and oversubscribing them.