Investigating the foraging, guarding and drifting behaviors of commercial Bombus terrestris

MacKenzie, Ellen L, Goulson, Dave and Rotheray, Ellen L (2021) Investigating the foraging, guarding and drifting behaviors of commercial Bombus terrestris. Journal of Insect Behavior, 34 (5-6). pp. 334-345. ISSN 0892-7553

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Social insects have high levels of cooperation and division of labor. In bumble bees this is partly size-based, with larger bees performing tasks outside the nest and smaller bees remaining inside, although bumble bees still display considerable behavioral plasticity. The level of specialization in tasks outside the colony, including foraging, guarding and drifting (entering a foreign colony), is currently unknown for bumble bees. This study aimed to assess division of labor between outside tasks and the degree of specialization in foraging, guarding, and switching colonies in commercially reared bumble bees placed in the field. Nine factory-bought Bombus terrestris colonies were placed on three farms in Sussex, UK, between June and August 2015. Forty workers from each colony were radio-tagged and a reader on the colony entrance recorded the date, time and bee ID as they passed. The length and frequency of foraging trips and guarding behavior were calculated, and drifting recorded. The mean (±SD) length of foraging trips was 45 ± 36 min, and the mean number of foraging trips per day was 7.75 ± 7.71. Low levels of specialization in guarding or foraging behavior were found; however, some bees appeared to guard more frequently than others, and twenty bees were categorized as guards. Five bees appeared to exhibit repeated “stealing” behavior, which may have been a specialist task. The division of labor between tasks was not size-based. It is concluded that commercial bumble bees are flexible in performing outside nest tasks and may have diverse foraging strategies including intra-specific nest robbing.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 14 Feb 2022 08:19
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2022 08:30

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