Scouts behave as streakers in honeybee swarms
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Harmonic radar tracking was used to record the flights of scout bees during takeoff and initial flight path of two honeybee swarms. One swarm remained intact and performed a full flight to a destination beyond the range of the harmonic radar, while a second swarm disintegrated within the range of the radar and most of the bees returned to the queen. The initial stretch of the full flight is characterized by accelerating speed, whereas the disintegrating swarm flew steadily at low speed. The two scouts in the swarm displaying full flight performed characteristic flight maneuvers. They flew at high speed when traveling in the direction of their destination and slowed down or returned over short stretches at low speed. Scouts in the disintegrating swarm did not exhibit the same kind of characteristic flight performance. Our data support the streaker bee hypothesis proposing that scout bees guide the swarm by traveling at high speed in the direction of the new nest site for short stretches of flight and slowing down when reversing flight direction.
KeywordsHoneybee swarm Nest-site scouts Harmonic radar tracking Flight guidance
The study was supported by DFG grant Me 365/34-1, the Dr. Klaus Tschira Stiftung, and the Gemeinnützige Hertie Stiftung. We are most grateful to Prof. W.D. Haass and Dipl.-Ing. B. Fischer for constructing and building the harmonic radar device. We are most grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their most helpful comments.
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