Navigation Links
Bee swarms follow high-speed 'streaker' bees to find a new nest

It's one of the hallmarks of spring: a swarm of bees on the move. But how a swarm locates a new nest site when less than 5% of the community know the way remains a mystery. Curious to find out how swarms cooperate and are guided to their new homes, Tom Seeley, a neurobiologist from Cornell University, and engineers Kevin Schultz and Kevin Passino from The Ohio State University teamed up to find out how swarms are guided to their new home and publish their findings on October 3rd 2008 in The Journal of Experimental Biology,

According to Schultz there are two theories on how swarms find the way. In the 'subtle guide' theory, a small number of scout bees, which had been involved in selecting the new nest site, guide the swarm by flying unobtrusively in its midst; near neighbours adjust their flight path to avoid colliding with the guides while more distant insects align themselves to the guides' general direction. In the 'streaker bee' hypothesis, bees follow a few conspicuous guides that fly through the top half of the swarm at high speed.

Schultz explains that Seeley already had still photographs of the streaks left by high-speed bees flying through a swarm's upper layers, but what Seeley needed was movie footage of a swarm on the move to see if the swarm was following high-velocity streakers or being unobtrusively directed by guides. Passino and Seeley decided to film swarming bees with high-definition movie cameras to find out how they were directed to their final destination.

But filming diffuse swarms spread along a 12m length with each individual on her own apparently random course is easier said than done. For a start you have to locate your camera somewhere along the swarm's flight path, which is impossible to predict in most environments. The team overcame this problem by relocating to Appledore Island, which has virtually no high vegetation for swarms to settle on. By transporting large colonies of bees, complete with queen, to the island, the team could get the insects to swarm from a stake to the only available nesting site; a comfortable nesting box. Situating the camera on the most direct route between the two sites, the team successfully filmed several swarms' chaotic progress at high resolution.

Back in Passino's Ohio lab, Schultz began the painstaking task of analysing over 3500 frames from a swarm fly-by to build up a picture of the insects' flight directions and vertical position. After months of bee-clicking, Schultz was able to find patterns in the insects' progress. For example, bees in the top of the swarm tended to fly faster and generally aimed towards the nest, with bees concentrated in the middle third of the top layer showing the strongest preference to head towards the nest. Schultz also admits that he was surprised at how random the bees' trajectories were in the bottom half of the swarm, 'they were going in every direction,' he says, but the bees that were flying towards the new nest generally flew faster than bees that were heading in other directions; they appeared to latch onto the high-speed streakers. All of which suggests that the swarm was following high-speed streaker bees to their new location.


Contact: Kathryn Phillips
The Company of Biologists

Related biology news :

1. Ecologist finds dire devastation of snake species following floods of 93, 95
2. LSU professor studies army-ant-following birds
3. Researchers take first steps towards spinal cord reconstruction following injury
4. BIO-key(R) and Tiger IT Awarded a Follow-on Contract for Nationwide Voter / Citizen Registration in Bangladesh
5. MNI researchers locate neurological basis of depression following sports concussion
6. Ants and avalanches: Insects on coffee plants follow widespread natural tendency
7. Wandering albatrosses follow their nose
8. When following the leader can lead into the jaws of death
9. Following traumatic brain injury, balanced nutrition saves lives
10. Researchers block damage to fetal brain following maternal alcohol consumption
11. NSF awards Williams funding for high-speed imaging faciltity
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/17/2015)... Pressure BioSciences, Inc. (OTCQB: PBIO) ("PBI" and ... of broadly enabling, pressure cycling technology ("PCT")-based sample preparation ... it has received gross proceeds of $745,000 from an ... "Offering"), increasing the total amount raised to date in ... are expected in the near future. ...
(Date:11/12/2015)... BOSTON , Nov. 12, 2015  A golden ... for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) has provided a new ... Boston Children,s Hospital, the Broad Institute of MIT and ... Brazil . Cell, ... some dogs "escape" the disease,s effects. The Boston Children,s ...
(Date:11/12/2015)... 2015   Growing need for low-cost, easy ... been paving the way for use of biochemical ... analytes in clinical, agricultural, environmental, food and defense ... in medical applications, however, their adoption is increasing ... continuous emphasis on improving product quality and growing ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... HOLLISTON, Mass. , Nov. 25, 2015 ... HART ), a biotechnology company developing bioengineered organ implants ... McGorry will present at the LD Micro "Main ... 2:30 p.m. PT. The presentation will be webcast live ... Management will also be available at the conference for ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... , Nov. 25, 2015 Orexigen® Therapeutics, Inc. ... participate in a fireside chat discussion at the Piper ... York . The discussion is scheduled for Wednesday, ... .  A replay will be available for ... Stilwell  , Julie NormartVP, Corporate Communications and Business ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... ... The United States Golf Association (USGA) today announced Dr. Bruce Clarke, of ... since 1961, the USGA Green Section Award recognizes an individual’s distinguished service to the ... of Iselin, N.J., is an extension specialist of turfgrass pathology in the department of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... maintain healthy metabolism. But unless it is bound to proteins, copper is also ... Health (NIH), researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will conduct a systematic study ...
Breaking Biology Technology: