Bee swarms make decisions like humans

December 11th, 2011 - 2:24 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 11 (IANS) Both humans and insects make decisions in a similar way but bees could teach us about how our brains work.

James Marshall, computer scientist and study co-author at the University of Sheffield, said: “The new mathematical modelling we’ve done makes me think we should be asking whether our brains might work like honeybee colonies.

“Many people know about the waggle dance that honeybees use to direct hive mates to rich
flower patches and new nest sites,” said Marshall, the journal Science reports.

It “shows that this isn’t the only way that honeybees communicate with each other when they are choosing a new nest site; they also disrupt the waggle dances of bees that are advertising alternative sites”.

Biologists from Cornell University, New York, Universities of California (Riverside) and Bristol set up two nest boxes for a homeless honeybee swarm to choose between and recorded how bees that visited each box interacted with bees from the rival box, according to a Sheffield statement.

They found that bees that visited one site, which were marked with pink paint, tended to inhibit the dances of bees advertising the other site, which were marked with yellow paint, and vice versa.

Sheffield’s Patrick Hogan, who constructed the bees mathematical model, said: “The bees target their stop signal only at rivals within the colony, preventing the colony as a whole from becoming deadlocked with indecision when choosing a new home.

“This remarkable behaviour emerges naturally from the very simple interactions observed between the individual bees in the colony.”

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