Honeybees that find nectar tell the rest of the hive about it by dancing. But bumblebees instruct nestmates through smell, find Mathieu Molet and his colleagues at Queen Mary, University of London.
They exposed bumblebees (Bombus terrestris; pictured) to anise flower scent, in some cases combined with a pheromone that has been linked to bee foraging. Bees leaving home to find food followed the anise odour whether or not the pheromone was present in the nest.
Foraging bumblebees, the authors argue, bring pollen and nectar into the nest and their peers thus learn what to search for by the target's scent. The pheromone the finders release has no specific teaching role; instead it increases the foraging behaviour of nestmates. Co-author Nigel Raine suggests dosing bumblebee nests with it and specific fragrances to improve commercial crop pollination.