Bigger is better

Honeybee colonies as distributed information-gathering systems

Matina C. Donaldson-Matasci, Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman, Anna Dornhaus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In collectively foraging groups, communication about food resources can play an important role in the organization of the group's activity. For example, the honeybee dance communication system allows colonies to selectively allocate foragers among different floral resources according to their quality. Because larger groups can potentially collect more information than smaller groups, they might benefit more from communication because it allows them to integrate and use that information to coordinate forager activity. Larger groups might also benefit more from communication because it allows them to dominate high-value resources by recruiting large numbers of foragers. By manipulating both colony size and the ability to communicate location information in the dance, we show that larger colonies of honeybees benefit more from communication than do smaller colonies. In fact, colony size and dance communication worked together to improve foraging performance; the estimated net gain per foraging trip was highest in larger colonies with unimpaired communication. These colonies also had the earliest peaks in foraging activity, but not the highest ones. This suggests they may find and recruit to resources more quickly, but not more heavily. The benefits of communication we observed in larger colonies are thus likely a result of more effective information-gathering due to massive parallel search rather than increased competitive ability due to heavy recruitment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)585-592
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Volume85
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2013

Fingerprint

honey bee colonies
honeybee
information systems
communication (human)
information system
communication
foraging
resource
bee dances
communications technology
competitive ability
food

Keywords

  • Apis mellifera
  • Collective behaviour
  • Colony size
  • Communication
  • Foraging
  • Honeybee
  • Information
  • Resource distribution
  • Social insect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Bigger is better : Honeybee colonies as distributed information-gathering systems. / Donaldson-Matasci, Matina C.; DeGrandi-Hoffman, Gloria; Dornhaus, Anna.

In: Animal Behaviour, Vol. 85, No. 3, 03.2013, p. 585-592.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Donaldson-Matasci, Matina C. ; DeGrandi-Hoffman, Gloria ; Dornhaus, Anna. / Bigger is better : Honeybee colonies as distributed information-gathering systems. In: Animal Behaviour. 2013 ; Vol. 85, No. 3. pp. 585-592.
@article{080e36908838416fa18c5eae9604bd5e,
title = "Bigger is better: Honeybee colonies as distributed information-gathering systems",
abstract = "In collectively foraging groups, communication about food resources can play an important role in the organization of the group's activity. For example, the honeybee dance communication system allows colonies to selectively allocate foragers among different floral resources according to their quality. Because larger groups can potentially collect more information than smaller groups, they might benefit more from communication because it allows them to integrate and use that information to coordinate forager activity. Larger groups might also benefit more from communication because it allows them to dominate high-value resources by recruiting large numbers of foragers. By manipulating both colony size and the ability to communicate location information in the dance, we show that larger colonies of honeybees benefit more from communication than do smaller colonies. In fact, colony size and dance communication worked together to improve foraging performance; the estimated net gain per foraging trip was highest in larger colonies with unimpaired communication. These colonies also had the earliest peaks in foraging activity, but not the highest ones. This suggests they may find and recruit to resources more quickly, but not more heavily. The benefits of communication we observed in larger colonies are thus likely a result of more effective information-gathering due to massive parallel search rather than increased competitive ability due to heavy recruitment.",
keywords = "Apis mellifera, Collective behaviour, Colony size, Communication, Foraging, Honeybee, Information, Resource distribution, Social insect",
author = "Donaldson-Matasci, {Matina C.} and Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman and Anna Dornhaus",
year = "2013",
month = "3",
doi = "10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.12.020",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "85",
pages = "585--592",
journal = "Animal Behaviour",
issn = "0003-3472",
publisher = "Academic Press Inc.",
number = "3",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Bigger is better

T2 - Honeybee colonies as distributed information-gathering systems

AU - Donaldson-Matasci, Matina C.

AU - DeGrandi-Hoffman, Gloria

AU - Dornhaus, Anna

PY - 2013/3

Y1 - 2013/3

N2 - In collectively foraging groups, communication about food resources can play an important role in the organization of the group's activity. For example, the honeybee dance communication system allows colonies to selectively allocate foragers among different floral resources according to their quality. Because larger groups can potentially collect more information than smaller groups, they might benefit more from communication because it allows them to integrate and use that information to coordinate forager activity. Larger groups might also benefit more from communication because it allows them to dominate high-value resources by recruiting large numbers of foragers. By manipulating both colony size and the ability to communicate location information in the dance, we show that larger colonies of honeybees benefit more from communication than do smaller colonies. In fact, colony size and dance communication worked together to improve foraging performance; the estimated net gain per foraging trip was highest in larger colonies with unimpaired communication. These colonies also had the earliest peaks in foraging activity, but not the highest ones. This suggests they may find and recruit to resources more quickly, but not more heavily. The benefits of communication we observed in larger colonies are thus likely a result of more effective information-gathering due to massive parallel search rather than increased competitive ability due to heavy recruitment.

AB - In collectively foraging groups, communication about food resources can play an important role in the organization of the group's activity. For example, the honeybee dance communication system allows colonies to selectively allocate foragers among different floral resources according to their quality. Because larger groups can potentially collect more information than smaller groups, they might benefit more from communication because it allows them to integrate and use that information to coordinate forager activity. Larger groups might also benefit more from communication because it allows them to dominate high-value resources by recruiting large numbers of foragers. By manipulating both colony size and the ability to communicate location information in the dance, we show that larger colonies of honeybees benefit more from communication than do smaller colonies. In fact, colony size and dance communication worked together to improve foraging performance; the estimated net gain per foraging trip was highest in larger colonies with unimpaired communication. These colonies also had the earliest peaks in foraging activity, but not the highest ones. This suggests they may find and recruit to resources more quickly, but not more heavily. The benefits of communication we observed in larger colonies are thus likely a result of more effective information-gathering due to massive parallel search rather than increased competitive ability due to heavy recruitment.

KW - Apis mellifera

KW - Collective behaviour

KW - Colony size

KW - Communication

KW - Foraging

KW - Honeybee

KW - Information

KW - Resource distribution

KW - Social insect

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84875276427&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84875276427&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.12.020

DO - 10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.12.020

M3 - Article

VL - 85

SP - 585

EP - 592

JO - Animal Behaviour

JF - Animal Behaviour

SN - 0003-3472

IS - 3

ER -