Dynamics of Collective Decision Making of Honeybees in Complex Temperature Fields

Szopek, M., Schmickl, T., Thenius, R., Radspieler, G., & Crailsheim, K.

PloS one, 8(10), e76250, 2013.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076250

Used by the ASSISI | bf project

Freshly emerged honeybees have a preferred temperature near 36 °C. However, in an arena with a complex thermal environment single bees are hardly able to locate themselves at their optimal temperature whereas groups of bees aggregate there. In this study we investigate this collective thermotaxis of honeybees in complex thermal environments. The bees exhibit collective decision making by modulating the resting time after encountering another bee according to the locally perceived temperature. This behaviour not only enables the bees to collectively choose the optimal temperature spot, they also successfully discriminate a global from a local optimum. We show that the collective thermotaxis enables groups of bees to perform complex tasks despite the limited abilities of each individual.