High-speed ‘’streaker” bees show others the way to new nest sites

October 4th, 2008 - 2:11 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, October 4 (ANI): A new study by researchers from two American universities suggests that bees have some scouts who fly at high speed to guide others towards a new nest site.
Cornell University Tom Seeley and Ohio State University engineers Kevin Schultz and Kevin Passino came to this conclusion after analysing videos of swarming bees.
The researchers say that they have two theories to answer how swarms of bees locate their new nest sites when less than five per cent of the community know the way.
One of the theories, they say, is the subtle guide theory, as per which a small number of scout bees involved in selecting the new nest site guide the swarm by flying
unobtrusively in its midst.
The researchers say that near neighbours adjust their flight path to avoid colliding with the guides while more distant insects align themselves to the guides” general
direction.
Their second theory is the ‘’streaker bee” hypothesis, as per which bees follow a few conspicuous guides that fly through the top half of the swarm at high speed.
For their study, the researchers filmed swarming bees with high-definition movie while relocating them 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.
Analysing over 3500 frames from a swarm fly-by to build up a picture of the insects” flight directions and vertical position, the researchers were able to find patterns in the
insects progress.
They observed that 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.
The researchers said that the bees that were flying towards the new nest generally flew faster than bees that were heading in other directions, and that the latter group
appeared to latch onto the high-speed streakers.
Based on their observations, the researchers came to the conclusion that the swarm was following high-speed streaker bees to their new location. (ANI)

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