Foraging Strategy of Honey Bees in Nature



             photos by artur84



In a bee colony, part of the population explores randomly the fields surrounding the hive in search of flower patches rich in nectar or pollen [3]. In particular, these scout bees look for food sources giving high energetic yield, that is, flower patches near to the hive where nectar is abundant, easy to extract, and rich in sugar content. When they return to the nest, the scout bees deposit the food harvested. Those scouts that found a high-quality food source visit a particular area of the hive called the “dance floor”, and communicate their discovery to idle nest mates. The location of the high-quality flower patch is transmitted through a ritual known as the “waggle dance” [4]. As a result of the waggle dance, a number of foragers join the scout bee in harvesting the advertised flower patch. Since the duration of the dance is proportional to the dancer’s quality rating of the food source, and the number of recruited foragers is proportional to the length of the dance, the most profitable sources are visited by the largest number of foragers. After the waggle dance is completed, the dancer bee goes back to the flower patch, and may dance again next time it returns to the hive to unload the harvest. Upon their return to the hive, the recruited foragers may dance too, attracting more foragers to the food source. Thanks to this autocatalytic mechanism, the bee colony is able to mobilise quickly a large number of foragers to harvest highly profitable food sources [4].