bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Monday, April 24, 2006

Bee voting patterns

The way that a swarm decides on a new nesting site has been revealed by Thomas Seeley in latest issue of The American Scientist (actually, I think he did it a few years ago in his marvellous book, The Wisdom of the Hive, but maybe he's added a few experiments and mathematical models since).

anyway, he describes how, by means of waggle-dancing, bees communicate their site preferences and how a threshold view is reached. Bees are also smart enough to trade
off between finding an ideal home and finding one quickly (they've got one up on some would-be purchasers of my last house then!)

For a group of about 10,000 bees, several hundred scout out nest sites, but it takes the build-up of just 10 to 20 bees at a site before the swarm starts to move to that location.
I well remember watching, a few years go, a swarm arguing about moving into my swarm box and setting up home in the eaves of a nearby house. Some scouts were dancing in favour of a great des res in the eaves, but my empty beer box on the ground won because the queen had damaged a wing and couldn't fly.


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