Food alert in bumblebees (Bombus terrestris): Possible mechanisms and evolutionary implications

A. Dornhaus, L. Chittka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


The return of a successful bumblebee forager stimulates nestmates to leave the nest and search for food. Here we investigate the mechanisms by which this happens. Successful Bombus terrestris foragers perform irregular runs in their nest, often lasting for several minutes. Run duration is at its maximum when food has just been discovered. Running likely serves to distribute a pheromone, since the information flow between "runners" and "recruits" can be disrupted by eliminating air exchange, while leaving other potential means of communication intact. In addition, nectar stores in the nest may be monitored continuously. A sudden influx of nectar into the nest also causes measurable increases in forager activity. The implications of bumblebee recruitment behavior for the evolution of communication in bees are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)570-576
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Bee dance
  • Communication
  • Foraging
  • Pheromone
  • Recruitment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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