Food alert in bumblebees (Bombus terrestris): possible mechanisms and evolutionary implications
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The return of a successful bumblebee forager stimulates nestmates to leave the nest and search for food. Here we investigate the mechanisms by which this happens. Successful Bombus terrestris foragers perform irregular runs in their nest, often lasting for several minutes. Run duration is at its maximum when food has just been discovered. Running likely serves to distribute a pheromone, since the information flow between "runners" and "recruits" can be disrupted by eliminating air exchange, while leaving other potential means of communication intact. In addition, nectar stores in the nest may be monitored continuously. A sudden influx of nectar into the nest also causes measurable increases in forager activity. The implications of bumblebee recruitment behavior for the evolution of communication in bees are discussed.
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