Larger honeybee colonies benefit from their greater capacity to gather information.

Matina Donaldson-Matasci at the University of Arizona in Tucson and her team prevented honeybees (Apis mellifera) from communicating through their waggle dance (pictured), and monitored what happened in different-sized colonies. Bees in large colonies in which normal communication occurred were the most efficient food-finders, sending new foragers to known resources up to four hours earlier than smaller colonies or large colonies in which waggle dances did not convey information.

This work provides some of the first experimental evidence that communication is particularly beneficial to large groups of social insects, the authors say.


Anim. Behav. 85, 585–592 (2013)