Comparing foraging behaviour of small and large honey-bee colonies by decoding waggle dances made by foragers

Authors

  • M. BEEKMAN,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney NSW 2006, Australia,
    2. Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, Department of Animal & Plant Sciences, Sheffield University, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK,
    Search for more papers by this author
  • D. J. T. SUMPTER,

    1. Centre for Mathematical Biology, Mathematical Institute, Oxford University, 24–29 St. Giles, Oxford, OX1 3LB, UK, and
    Search for more papers by this author
  • N. SERAPHIDES,

    1. Department of Agricultural and Environmental Science, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
    • *

      Present address: Agricultural Research Institute, PO Box 22016, 1516 Nicosia, Cyprus.

  • F. L. W. RATNIEKS

    1. Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, Department of Animal & Plant Sciences, Sheffield University, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK,
    Search for more papers by this author

†Author to whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: mbeekman@bio.usyd.edu.au

Summary

  • 1We compared the foraging behaviour of two small (approximately 6000 bees) and two large (approximately 20 000 bees) honey-bee colonies over 6 days. We determined where the bees of each colony foraged, whether they collected nectar or pollen, the number of patches foraged at, the number of bees engaged in foraging, and the concentration of the nectar collected.
  • 2Even though the colonies were located in the same environment and had the same genetic background, foragers from different colonies used different forage patches.
  • 3Small and large colonies foraged at a similar distance in July when forage was abundant (mean foraging distance for small and large colonies was 0·67 and 0·62 km, respectively) whereas the large colonies foraged significantly further in August when forage was scarce (mean foraging distance for small and large colonies was 1·43 and 2·85 km, respectively).
  • 4Small colonies foraged at approximately the same number of patches as large colonies. The total number of foragers returning to the small colonies per minute was significantly lower than the number of foragers returning to the large colonies. This means that, relative to their size, small colonies foraged at more patches than large colonies.
  • 5The quality of the nectar collected by foragers of the small and large colonies did not differ. However, small colonies did collect more pollen than large colonies.

Ancillary