, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 327–346 | Cite as

From molecules to societies: mechanisms regulating swarming behavior in honey bees (Apis spp.)

  • Christina M. GrozingerEmail author
  • Jessica Richards
  • Heather R. Mattila
Review article


Reproduction by colony fission, or swarming, is a spectacular example of a behavior that requires the simultaneous coordination of the activities of thousands of honey bee workers and their queen. The successful execution of this collective phenomenon relies on the appropriate response of individuals in swarms to a myriad of signals that are produced by workers and queens to synchronize their nest exodus, subsequent house hunting, and eventual relocation to a new nest site. In this review, we describe our current understanding of the social factors that trigger swarming in colonies and the nonchemical and chemical signals that mediate a coordinated transition between its stages. We also highlight emerging work on the physiological and genomic mechanisms underpinning swarming behavior. Finally, we discuss the possible evolutionary origins of swarming behavior, through comparisons with related behaviors of migration, overwintering, estivation, and diapause in honey bees and other insects.


collective behavior swarming chemical communication physiology genomics honey bee 



The authors would like to thank Nick Sloff and Harland Patch (Penn State University) for assistance with graphical design of Figure 1, and Jonathan Snow (Barnard College) for the line drawing of the hive. This review was supported by a National Science Foundation CAREER grant to CMG, a US-Israel Binational Science Foundation grant to CMG (and A. Hefetz), and a Wellelsey College Brachman-Hoffman grant and Knafel Endowed Chair in the Natural Sciences to HRM.


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Copyright information

© INRA, DIB and Springer-Verlag France 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina M. Grozinger
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jessica Richards
    • 1
  • Heather R. Mattila
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Entomology, Center for Pollinator ResearchThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesWellesley CollegeWellesleyUSA

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