Choosing a home: how the scouts in a honey bee swarm perceive the completion of their group decision making

  title={Choosing a home: how the scouts in a honey bee swarm perceive the completion of their group decision making},
  author={Thomas D Seeley and P. Kirk Visscher},
  journal={Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology},
This study considers the mystery of how the scout bees in a honey bee swarm know when they have completed their group decision making regarding the swarm's new nest site. More specifically, we investigated how the scouts sense when it is appropriate for them to begin producing the worker piping signals that stimulate their swarm-mates to prepare for the flight to their new home. We tested two hypotheses: "consensus sensing," the scouts noting when all the bees performing waggle dances are… 

Searching for a new home—scouting behavior of honeybee swarms

This model implemented a simple decision rule that regulates the number of scouts: individual bees first attempt to find a dance to follow but become scouts if they fail to do so, and it is shown that this rule neatly allows the swarm to adjust thenumber of scouts depending on the quality of the nest sites known to the swarm.

Quorum sensing during nest-site selection by honeybee swarms

The quorum-sensing hypothesis, that scout bees know when to initiate the preparation for their swarm’s move to their new home by noting when one of the potential nest sites under consideration is being visited by a sufficiently large number of scouts, is tested.

An oligarchy of nest-site scouts triggers a honeybee swarm’s departure from the hive

The control of the departure of a honeybee swarm from its hive shows how a small minority of well-informed individuals in a large social insect colony can make important decisions about when a colony should take action.

Coordinating a group departure: who produces the piping signals on honeybee swarms?

No evidence that bees other than the scouts that have visited the swarm’s chosen nest site produce piping signals is found, which suggests that it is a signal that only primes swarms for takeoff and that the release of takeoff is triggered by some other signal or cue.

Moving without a purpose: an experimental study of swarm guidance in the Western honey bee, Apis mellifera

Testing experimentally whether directional consensus is necessary for the successful guidance of swarms of the Western honey bee Apis mellifera by forcing swarms into the air prior to the completion of the decision-making process shows that swarms were unable to guide themselves before reaching the pre-flight buzzing phase of the decided process, even when directional consensus was high.

Group decision making in nest-site selection among social insects.

The choice of a new nest site is ecologically critical for an insect colony. In swarm-founding social insects, or those that move as colonies from one site to another, this choice is one of the

Group decision making in nest-site selection by honey bees

It is discussed how the scouts in a swarm sense when their group decision making is coming to an end and so should begin stimulating their quiescent swarm-mates to prepare for the flight to their new home.

Do small swarms have an advantage when house hunting? The effect of swarm size on nest-site selection by Apis mellifera

It is found that the ability of a swarm to choose the best of two nest sites decreases as swarm size increases when there is some time-lag between discovering the sites, consistent with Janson & Beekman.

Modeling and analysis of nest-site selection by honeybee swarms: the speed and accuracy trade-off

A model of nest-site selection in honeybees is developed and it is shown that the probability of choosing the best site is proportional to its quality, but that this proportionality depends on its quality relative to other discovered sites.



Consensus building during nest-site selection in honey bee swarms: the expiration of dissent

  • T. Seeley
  • Biology
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
  • 2003
This study addresses a question that lies at the heart of understanding how the scouts in a honey bee swarm achieve unanimity in their dances, and so reach agreement in their choice of a future nest

Group decision making in swarms of honey bees

It is hypothesized that scout bees are programmed to gradually quit dancing and that this reduces the possibility of the decision-making process coming to a standstill with groups of unyielding dancers deadlocked over two or more sites.

Nest-site selection in honey bees: how well do swarms implement the "best-of-N" decision rule?

It is found that when a scout bee returns to the swarm cluster and advertises a potential nest site with a waggle dance, she tunes the strength of her dance in relation to the quality of her site: the better the site, the stronger the dance.

The mystery of swarming honeybees: from individual behaviors to collective decisions.

Thousands of individuals in a honeybee swarm make a collective decision for one among many nest sites discovered. We recorded the waggle dances on swarms in a forested area, where one swarm’s search

House-hunting by honey bee swarms: collective decisions and individual behaviors

The results suggest that the choice among nest sites relies less on direct comparison of nest sites, and more on inherent processes of positive feedback and attrition by dancers dropping out, which might function as a chain-reaction effect triggering the end of the house-hunting process.


The present account treats only the period from agreement upon the new nest site to the entrance of the swarm into its new home, and took special pains to record events simultaneously at the interim cluster site and thenew nest site throughout this period.

Worker piping in honey bee swarms and its role in preparing for liftoff

The time-course of worker piping matches that of swarm warming; both start at a low level, about an hour before liftoff, and both build to a climax at lif toff.

Individual and collective decision-making during nest site selection by the ant Leptothorax albipennis

These small colonies make use of a distributed mechanism of information processing, but also take advantage of direct decision-making by well-informed individuals, which may reflect the stringent demand for unanimous decisions by house-hunting colonies of any size.

Social foraging in stingless bees: how colonies of Melipona fasciata choose among nectar sources

Over a sequence of 4 days, experienced bees increasingly determined the colony patterns, and the major function of communication between workers became the reactivation of experienced foragers, suggesting that M. fasciata and honeybees use similar decision-making mechanisms and only partly different tools.

Decision-making in foraging by social insects

Experimental and theoretical findings will lead us to re-consider the level of complexity of information processing and coding needed for the emergence of adaptive foraging patterns in social insects.