Bumblebees Copy Each Other to Find Best Flowers: Study

By Staff Reporter on April 5, 2013 5:52 AM EDT

Bumblebees Get by With a Little Help From Their Honeybee Rivals
Bumblebees copy other foragers to find best flowers that provides energy-rich nectar (Photo: flickr.com/wwarby)

A new study finds that bees copy other bees to select the best flowers that provide energy-rich nectar.

Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London, studied bumble bees and found that these small flying insects use a simple mechanism of choosing attractive flowers by watching other bees and learning from their behavior.

"Learning where to find nectar by watching others seems fantastically complex for a tiny bee, but it's something that almost any animal could do, in the right circumstances," Dr Elli Leadbeater, from Zoological Society of London, said in a statement.

Like Us on Facebook

Worker bees visit thousands of flowers every day to search nectar so as to feed the queen's brood. In a bid to avoid the exhausting process of exploring each flower, the bees watch which colored flowers are mostly chosen by the foragers. They conclude that the flowers that have the most number of visitors will have energy-rich nectar.

For their study, the research team carried out the tests with bumblebees in wooden laboratory "flight arenas" filled with artificial flowers. They trained the bees to know that sugar is found in flowers which the foragers visit. The bees were allowed to watch through a screen as their companions visited a particular flower and ignored the rest.

When the bees were later tested to choose the flower color alone, they chose the flowers their companions had visited earlier.

The research team also noticed that bees consider whether their companions are making the right choices. In the lab, researchers made some flowers to taste bitter using quinine - a flavor used in tonic water which bees dislike. They noticed that the bees did not copy other bees if they knew that the foragers are visiting bitter-tasting flowers.

"Our study shows how bees use past associations to make decisions about when to copy others, but almost all other animals, including humans, are also capable of forming associations. For example, we might associate Easter with chocolate or injections with fear," said Erika Dawson, a PhD student at Queen Mary, University of London.

"This suggests that other species, not just bees, may also use this logical process when learning from others."

The findings of the study are published in the journal Current Biology.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Join the Conversation

Sponsored From Around the Web

    ZergNet
Follow iScience Times
us on facebook RSS
 
us on google
 
Most Popular
INSIDE iScience Times
Do Dolphins Get High? BBC Cameras Catch Dolphins Chewing On Pufferfish Toxins
Do Dolphins Get High? BBC Cameras Catch Dolphins Chewing On Pufferfish Toxins
How Many Ways Can You Tie A Tie?
How Many Ways Can You Tie A Tie?
Ribbon Of Charged Particles At Solar System's Edge Acts Like A Wind Sock For Interstellar Magnetism
Ribbon Of Charged Particles At Solar System's Edge Acts Like A Wind Sock For Interstellar Magnetism
How to Turn Your Tap Water Faucet  Into a Coffee Spout [VIDEO]
How to Turn Your Tap Water Faucet Into a Coffee Spout [VIDEO]
Coolest Science Photos Of 2013: From Blobfish To Two-Headed Shark, Comet ISON To Mars Selfie
Coolest Science Photos Of 2013: From Blobfish To Two-Headed Shark, Comet ISON To Mars Selfie
This Is A Scientifically-Proven Rock-Paper-Scissors Winning Strategy (But If Your Opponent Uses It Too, It's A Draw)
This Is A Scientifically-Proven Rock-Paper-Scissors Winning Strategy (But If Your Opponent Uses It Too, It's A Draw)