Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 51–59 | Cite as

No spatial patterns for early nectar storage in honey bee colonies

  • M. EyerEmail author
  • M. K. Greco
  • J. Lang
  • P. Neumann
  • V. Dietemann
Research Article


Honey bees, Apis, forage for nectar and pollen, which are subsequently stored in cells of their nests. Despite the importance of honey storage for colony survival, very little is known about decision making by honey bee workers that could optimise the transformation of nectar into honey. Here we test, using diagnostic radioentomology, whether workers use rules based on sugar concentration to optimise the spatial distribution of storage cells during nectar ripening. The data show that after the first 3 days of storing activity, various sugar concentrations were mixed in individual cells. A spatial clustering of cells with content of similar concentration was only occasionally observed. The results, therefore, suggest that at early stages of storage, spatial proximity of cells with similar sugar concentrations does not result in improved efficiency and, therefore, does not seem adaptive. The costs involved in locating particular cells probably outweighs the benefits of clustering. Alternatively, but not mutually exclusive, physiological constraints (e.g. variation in the perception of sugar concentration) might limit such optimisation behaviour. Storing behaviour can serve as a model to better understand food provisioning and complex organisation of insect societies.


Honey bees Nectar Honey storage Decision making Sugar concentration Diagnostic radioentomology 



We are grateful to R. Joss for the help with the experiments. We thank W. Lüginbühl for his assistance with the statistics and S. Rogers for support with the spatial analysis. Mark Greco was partly funded by the Eva Crane Trust for this research.


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Eyer
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • M. K. Greco
    • 3
    • 4
  • J. Lang
    • 5
  • P. Neumann
    • 2
    • 6
  • V. Dietemann
    • 1
    • 6
  1. 1.Agroscope, Swiss Bee Research CentreBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Bee Health, Vetsuisse Faculty and Faculty of MedicineUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  3. 3.Medical Imaging, Faculty of Science, School of Dentistry and Health SciencesCharles Sturt UniversityWaggaAustralia
  4. 4.University of Bath Bee Unit, Department of Biology and Biochemistry, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of BathBathUK
  5. 5.Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine, Vetsuisse FacultyUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  6. 6.Zoology and Entomology DepartmentUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa

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