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Swarm cognition in honey bees

Abstract

We synthesize findings from neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral biology to show that some key features of cognition in the neuron-based brains of vertebrates are also present in the insect-based swarm of honey bees. We present our ideas in the context of the cognitive task of nest-site selection by honey bee swarms. After reviewing the mechanisms of distributed evidence gathering and processing that are the basis of decision making in bee swarms, we point out numerous similarities in the functional organization of vertebrate brains and honey bee swarms. These include the existence of interconnected subunits, parallel processing of information, a spatially distributed memory, layered processing of information, lateral inhibition, and mechanisms of focusing attention on critical stimuli. We also review the performance of simulated swarms in standard psychological tests of decision making: tests of discrimination ability and assessments of distractor effects.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank B. Moore, P. Laughlin, R. Ratclliff, and T. A. Waite for their inputs. The research reported here was supported in part by the US National Science Foundation (grant no. IBN02-10541 to TDS).

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Correspondence to Kevin M. Passino.

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Communicated by M. Beekman

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Passino, K.M., Seeley, T.D. & Visscher, P.K. Swarm cognition in honey bees. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 62, 401–414 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-007-0468-1

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Keywords

  • Collective intelligence
  • Group decision making
  • Honey bee
  • Swarm cognition