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Bee swarms follow high-speed 'streaker' bees to find a new nest
Date:10/2/2008

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.


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Contact: Kathryn Phillips
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