Moving home: nest-site selection in the Red Dwarf honeybee (Apis florea)
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The Red Dwarf honeybee (Apis florea) is one of two basal species in the genus Apis. A. florea differs from the well-studied Western Hive bee (Apis mellifera) in that it nests in the open rather than in cavities. This fundamental difference in nesting biology is likely to have implications for nest-site selection, the process by which a reproductive swarm selects a new site to live in. In A. mellifera, workers show a series of characteristic behaviors that allow the swarm to select the best nest site possible. Here, we describe the behavior of individual A. florea workers during the process of nest-site selection and show that it differs from that seen in A. mellifera. We analyzed a total of 1,459 waggle dances performed by 197 scouts in five separate swarms. Our results suggest that two fundamental aspects of the behavior of A. mellifera scouts—the process of dance decay and the process of repeated nest site evaluation—do not occur in A. florea. We also found that the piping signal used by A. mellifera scouts to signal that a quorum has been reached at the chosen site, is performed by both dancing and non-dancing bees in A. florea. Thus, the piping signal appears to serve a different purpose in A. florea. Our results illustrate how differences in nesting biology affect the behavior of individual bees during the nest-site selection process.
KeywordsApis florea Nest-site selection Group decision-making Swarming
We thank the Department of Biology, Naresuan University, for the use of their facilities. We thank Sorasak Nak-eam for his valuable assistance in locating and catching wild A. florea colonies, Jessica Higgs for helping mark the bees in swarms 4 and 5, Det Wattanachaiyingcharoen for locating many of the colonies used in this study, and Ros Gloag for her help with decoding the dances. We are grateful to two anonymous referees whose comments greatly improved the manuscript. Funding was provided by the Australian Research Council (to MB) and the University of Sydney (to MB).
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