Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 63, Issue 4, pp 553–563 | Cite as

Honey bee sociometry: tracking honey bee colonies and their nest contents from colony founding until death

  • M. L. Smith
  • M. M. Ostwald
  • T. D. Seeley
Research Article


Sociometry is the description and analysis of the physical and numerical attributes of social insect colonies over their lifetimes. Sociometric data, such as worker number and nest size are essential for understanding how colonies develop but are rarely collected. Even Apis mellifera, the most intensively studied social insect, has never received a broad-scale sociometric study. To help fill this gap, we monitored four honey bee colonies living in large observation hives from when they began as swarms (July 2012), to when they died (January 2014). We tracked multiple colony parameters, including worker and drone populations, comb area and use, swarming rate, and colony death. Each colony’s life history is described through its founding, ergonomic, and reproductive stages.


Growth and development Tracking developmental changes Colony morphology Lifetime reproductive investment Social insects 



We thank James Mendelssohn and Hailey Scofield for comments on the manuscript, and Ruth Ann Cecilia Smith for help with data management. Based on work supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (DGE-1144153, to MLS) and by a Hatch Grant (NYC-191400, to TDS) from the Cornell University Agriculture Experiment Station.


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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