Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 181–199

Social foraging in honey bees: how nectar foragers assess their colony's nutritional status

  • Thomas D. Seeley
Article
  • 494 Downloads

Summary

A honey bee colony operates as a tightly integrated unit of behavioral action. One manifestation of this in the context of foraging is a colony's ability to adjust its selectivity among nectar sources in relation to its nutritional status. When a colony's food situation is good, it exploits only highly profitable patches of flowers, but when its situation is poor, a colony's foragers will exploit both highly profitable and less profitable flower patches. The nectar foragers in a colony acquire information about their colony's nutritional status by noting the difficulty of finding food storer bees to receive their nectar, rather than by evaluating directly the variables determining their colony's food situation: rate of nectar intake and amount of empty storage comb. (The food storer bees in a colony are the bees that collect nectar from returning foragers and store it in the honey combs. They are the age group (generally 12–18 day old bees) that is older than the nurse bees but younger than the foragers. Food storers make up approximately 20% of a colony members.) The mathematical theory for the behavior of queues indicates that the waiting time experienced by nectar foragers before unloading to food storers (queue length) is a reliable and sensitive indicator of a colony's nutritional status. Queue length is automatically determined by the ratio of two rates which are directly related to a colony's nutritional condition: the rate of arrival of loaded nectar foragers at the hive (arrival rate) and the rate of arrival of empty food storers at the nectar delivery area (service rate). These two rates are a function of the colony's nectar intake rate and its empty comb area, respectively. Although waiting time conveys crucial information about the colony's nutritional status, it has not been molded by natural selection to serve this purpose. Unlike “signals”, which are evolved specifically to convey information, this “cue” conveys information as an automatic by-product. Such cues may prove more important than signals in colony integration.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Allen MD (1963) Drone production in honey-bee colonies (Apis mellifera L.). Nature 199:789–790Google Scholar
  2. Allen MD (1965) The effect of a plentiful supply of drone comb on colonies of honeybees. J Apic Res 4:109–119Google Scholar
  3. Boch R (1956) Die Tänze der Bienen bei nahen und fernen Trachtquellen. Z Vergl Physiol 38:136–167Google Scholar
  4. Brian MV (1983) Social insects. Ecology and behavioural biology. Chapman and Hall, London New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Dadant CC (1975) Beekeeping equipment. In: The hive and the honey bee. Dadant and Sons, Hamilton, pp 303–328Google Scholar
  6. Free JB (1967) The production of drone comb by honeybee colonies. J Apic Res 6:29–36Google Scholar
  7. Free JB, Williams IH (1975) Factors determining the rearing and rejection of drones by the honeybee colony. Anim Behav 23:650–675Google Scholar
  8. Frisch K von (1967) The dance language and orientation of bees. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  9. Gould JL, Henerey M, MacLeod MC (1970) Communication of direction by the honey bee. Science 169:544–554Google Scholar
  10. Gould JL, Gould CG (1988) The honey bee. Freeman, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Hangartner W (1969) Structure and variability of the individual odor trail in Solenopsis geminata Fabr. (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Z Vergl Physiol 62:111–120Google Scholar
  12. Heinrich B (1981) The mechanisms and energetics of honeybee swarm temperature regulation. J Exp Biol 91:25–55Google Scholar
  13. Hölldobler B (1971) Recruitment behavior in Camponotus socius (Hym. Formicidae). Z Vergl Physiol 75:123–142Google Scholar
  14. Hölldobler B (1977) Communication in social Hymenoptera. In: Sebeok TA (ed) How animals communicate. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, pp 418–471Google Scholar
  15. Jeanne RL (1986) The organization of work in Polybia occidentalis: costs and benefits of specialization in a social wasp. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 19:333–341Google Scholar
  16. Kronenberg F, Heller HC (1982) Colonial thermoregulation in honey bees (Apis mellifera). J Comp Physiol 148:65–76Google Scholar
  17. Law AM, Kelton WD (1982) Simulation modeling and analysis. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Lewis BD, Gower DM (1980) Biology of communication. Wiley & Sons, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Lindauer M (1948) Über die Einwirkung von Duft- und Geschmacksstoffen sowie anderer Faktoren auf die Tänze der Bienen. Z Vergl Physiol 31:348–412Google Scholar
  20. Lindauer M (1952) Ein Beitrag zur Frage der Arbeitsteilung im Bienenstaat. Z Vergl Physiol 34:299–345Google Scholar
  21. Lindauer M (1954) Temperaturregulierung und Wasserhaushalt im Bienenstaat. Z Vergl Physiol 36:391–432Google Scholar
  22. Lindauer M (1961) Communication among social bees. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  23. Lloyd JE (1983) Bioluminescence and communication in insects. Ann Rev Entomol 28:131–160Google Scholar
  24. Markl H (1985) Manipulation, modulation, information, cognition: some of the riddles of communication. In: Hölldobler B, Lindauer M (eds) Experimental behavioral ecology and sociobiology. Sinauer, Sunderland, pp 163–194Google Scholar
  25. Martin H, Lindauer M (1966) Sinnesphysiologische Leistungen beim Wabenbau der Honigbiene. Z Vergl Physiol 53:372–404Google Scholar
  26. Michener CD (1974) The social behavior of the bees. A comparative study. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  27. Milum VG (1955) Honey bee communication. Am Bee J 95:97–104Google Scholar
  28. Morse PM (1958) Queues, inventories, and maintenance. Wiley-& Sons, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Omholt SW (1987) Thermoregulation in the winter cluster of the honeybee, Apis mellifera. J Theor Biol 128:219–231Google Scholar
  30. Otte D (1974) Effects and functions in the evolution of signaling systems. Ann Rev Ecol Syst 5:385–417Google Scholar
  31. Rinderer TE (1981) Volatiles from empty comb increase hoarding by the honey bee. Anim Behav 29:1275–1276Google Scholar
  32. Rinderer TE (1982) Regulated nectar harvesting by the honeybee. J Apic Res 21:74–87Google Scholar
  33. Rinderer TE (1983) Regulation of honey bee hoarding efficiency. Apidol 14:87–92Google Scholar
  34. Schneider SS, Stamps JA, Gary NE (1986a) The vibration dance of the honey bee. I. Communication regulating foraging on two time scales. Anim Behav 34:377–385Google Scholar
  35. Schneider SS, Stamps JA, Gary NE (1986b) The vibration dance of the honey bee. II. The effects of foraging success on daily patterns of vibration activity. Anim Behav 34:386–391Google Scholar
  36. Schoener TW (1971) Theory of feeding strategies. Ann Rev Ecol Syst 2:369–404Google Scholar
  37. Seeley TD (1982) Adaptive significance of the age polyethism schedule in honeybee colonies. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 11:287–293Google Scholar
  38. Seeley TD (1985) Honeybee ecology. A study of adaptation in social life. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  39. Seeley TD (1986) Social foraging by honeybees: how colonies allocate foragers among patches of flowers. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 19:343–354Google Scholar
  40. Seeley TD (1987) The effectiveness of information collection about food sources by honey bee colonies. Anim Behav 35:1572–1575Google Scholar
  41. Seeley TD, Levien RA (1987) Social foraging by honeybees: how a colony tracks rich sources of nectar. In: Menzel R, Mercer A (eds) Neurobiology and behavior of honeybees. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 38–53Google Scholar
  42. Singh J (1972) Great ideas of operations research. Dover, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  43. Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1981) Biometry. Freeman, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  44. Sorensen AA, Busch TM, Vinson SB (1985) Control of food influx by temporal subcastes in the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 17:191–198Google Scholar
  45. Traniello JFA (1977) Recruitment behavior, orientation, and the organization of foraging in the carpenter ant Camponotus pennsylvanicus DeGeer (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 2:61–79Google Scholar
  46. Tschinkel WR (1988) Social control of egg-laying rate in queens of the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Physiol Entomol 13:327–350Google Scholar
  47. Visscher PK, Seeley TD (1982) Foraging strategy of honeybee colonies in a temperate deciduous forest. Ecology 63:1790–1801Google Scholar
  48. Williams GC (1966) Adaptation and natural selection. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  49. Williams GC (1985) A defense of reductionism in evolutionary biology. Oxford Surv Evol Biol 2:1–27Google Scholar
  50. Wilson EO (1962) Chemical communication among workers of the fire ant Solenopsis saevissima (Fr. Smith). 1. The organization of mass-foraging. Anim Behav 10:134–147Google Scholar
  51. Wilson EO (1971) The insect societies. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  52. Wilson EO (1985) The sociogenesis of insect colonies. Science 228:1489–1495Google Scholar
  53. Wilson EO, Hölldobler B (1988) Dense heterarchies and mass communication as the basis of organization in ant colonies. Tr Ecol Evol 3:65–68Google Scholar
  54. Winston ML (1987) The biology of the honey bee. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas D. Seeley
    • 1
  1. 1.Section of Neurobiology and BehaviorCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

Personalised recommendations