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The identity of nest-site scouts in honey bee swarms

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  • [Sdv:Ba:Zi] Life Sciences/Animal Biology/Invertebrate Zoology
  • [Sdv:Ba:Zi] Sciences Du Vivant/Biologie Animale/Zoologie Des Invertébrés
  • [Sdv:Bid] Life Sciences/Biodiversity
  • [Sdv:Bid] Sciences Du Vivant/Biodiversité
  • [Sdv:Ee] Life Sciences/Ecology
  • Environment
  • [Sdv:Ee] Sciences Du Vivant/Ecologie
  • Environnement
  • [Sdv:Sa:Spa] Life Sciences/Agricultural Sciences/Animal Production Studies
  • [Sdv:Sa:Spa] Sciences Du Vivant/Sciences Agricoles/Science Des Productions Animales
  • Biology


Original article The identity of nest-site scouts in honey bee swarms David C. Gilley Section of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA (Received 1 July 1997; accepted 20 January 1998) Abstract - The identity of the scout bees in a swarm of honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) is deter- mined by 1) which bees of the parental colony leave in the swarm, and 2) which bees of the swarm scout for nest sites. This study identifies the nest-site scouts by comparing the age dis- tributions of the parental colony, the foragers of the parental colony, the swarm, and nest-site scouts in the swarm for four prime swarms and two afterswarms. Statistical differences were found between the age distributions of the swarm and the parental colony, the scouts and the swarm, and the scouts and the foragers. The median age of the swarm bees was lower than that of the colony bees, that of the scouts was higher than that of the swarm bees, and that of the scouts was slightly less than that of the foragers. These results suggest that the nest-site scouts are primarily middle- aged bees which have foraging or flight experience. Functional hypotheses for these results are discussed. © Inra/DIB/AGIB/Elsevier, Paris Apis mellifera / honey bee / swarm / scout bee / age distribution 1. INTRODUCTION Honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) have evolved an elaborate system for colony- level reproduction, commonly known as swarming. This process begins when a queen and about two-thirds of the wor- kers scramble out of the hive and launch into flight [7]. The bees then quickly clus- ter nearby, where they may remain for up to a week while searching for a new nest site [19]. Within the cluster, the bees are divided between two behavioral states. The vast majority of the bees in the swarm are inac- tive. Engorged with honey, these bees function as the swarm’s food reservoir [2]. A small minority of the bees, however, are active. They serve as the nest-site scouts, flying from the swarm cluster t

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