I. Importance of Collective Worker Choices over Queen Choice
A. Finding Food Sources as a Colony:
When scouts find a new quality food source (nectar or pollen), they come back to the hive and communicate its location to others. They do this using a pattern of movement called the “waggle dance”. Idle foragers will see bees doing a waggle dance and fly to the food source. If it is still a quality source, then they will dance for it upon returning. In this way, better sources are danced for more and idle foragers are more likely to see a dance to that source. As sources deplete in quality, they will be danced for less, and the dances seen less. In this way individual bees can work in concert as a superorganism to choose food sources.
How the waggle dance works:
How the honey bee hive communicates and votes using the waggle dance (to find nectar, pollen, propolis, water, and a new home when swarming):
Biology professor and renowned beekeeper Tom Seeley explaining how bees use the waggle dance to find a new home:
Academic talk hosted by Tom Seeley explaining his research about how bees use the waggle dance to communicate and vote:
[Editor’s note: this article was published in a slightly abbreviated form in The New Zealand BeeKeeper in April and May 2012.]
This article has been reprinted with the kind permission of The New Zealand BeeKeeper.