Honey bees rally to their queen via ‘game of telephone’ | Science


“Buzz. Buzz. The queen is that way,” stated one honey bee to another. “Pass it on.”

Honey bees can’t speak, of course, however researchers have actually discovered that the bugs integrate team effort and smell chemicals to pass on the queen’s area to the rest of the nest, exposing a remarkable methods of cross country, mass interaction.

The research study is “really nice, and really careful,” states Gordon Berman, a biologist at Emory University who was not associated with the research study. It reveals as soon as again, he states, that bugs are capable of “exquisite and complex behaviors.”

Honey bees interact with chemicals called scents, which they pick up through their antennae. Like a king pushing a button, the queen produces scents to summon employee bees to meet her requirements. But her scents just take a trip up until now. Busy employee bees, nevertheless, wander around, and they, too, can call to each other by launching a scent called Nasanov, through a gesticulation referred to as “scenting; they raise their abdominal areas to expose their scent glands and fan their wings to direct the foul-smelling chemicals backwards (seen in the video above, and close-up in the video listed below).

Scientists have actually long understood specific bees aromatic, however simply how these specific signals interact to collect 10s of thousands of bees around a queen, such as when the nest leaves the hive to swarm, has actually stayed a secret.

In the brand-new research study, Dieu My Nguyen, a computer system researcher at the University of Colorado (CU), Boulder, and coworkers concentrated on a nest of western honey bees (Apis mellifera L.), the most typical honey bee types on the planet. The scientists established a flat, pizza box–size arena with a transparent ceiling, in which the bees might walk, however not fly. They tucked the queen bee into a cage on one side and launched the employee honey bees on the other. The researchers then tape-recorded the bugs’ motions from above with a video camera; expert system software application tracked bees that were launching Nasanov scents.

Once the very first employee honey bees situated the queen, they started to put together chains of uniformly spaced bees that extended outside from the queen, with each bee wafting Nasanov to its next-door neighbor down the line. The findings, reported this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are the first direct observations of this collective communication in honey bees. Like foul-smelling bread crumbs, the branching interaction lines directed far-off honey bees back to the queen’s area—an accomplishment no single bee might attain alone.

“A really great analogy is the game of telephone,” states Orit Peleg, a computer system researcher at CU and a senior author on the research study. “You whisper a word in your neighbor’s ear, and they pass it to their neighbor, and so on.”

The scientists shed some light on how honey bees hired one another into these scent relays. They saw that bees in the relays spaced themselves about 6 centimeters apart. According to Peleg, this recommends the bees are finding a particular quantity of scents, dropping what they’re doing, and participating in to hand down their own scents.

Mark Carroll, an entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, warns that the work was performed in a confined, almost 2D space. In reality, he keeps in mind, honey bee nests are 3D, and they frequently have to compete with components like wind and rain, that make interacting more complex.

But by streamlining the issue, he states, this research study uses insights into how swarming honey bee nests may self-organize in nature. “The next step will be to observe natural honey bee swarms and see if they’re actually doing this.”

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