Recruitment of honeybees to non-scented food sources

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2003 Apr;189(4):293-300. doi: 10.1007/s00359-003-0402-6. Epub 2003 Mar 18.


Small groups of honeybees (five to nine individuals) were trained to forage at feeders 150 m, 300 m and 800 m from an observation hive. Their behaviour in the hive and at the feeder was recorded by observers that maintained continuous radio contact with one another. At low concentrations of sugar in the feeder (0.5 mol x l(-1)) foragers do not dance in the hives, their flights to the feeder are often undertaken alone, they land immediately after arrival at the site and no recruits from the hive landed on the feeder during 30 h of observation. Raising the concentration of sugar in the feeder to 2 mol x l(-1) leads to vigorous dancing by the foragers and the gradual (over 10-15 min) synchronisation of their flights so that they arrive in groups of up to five bees at the feeder and undertake circular "buzzing" flights before landing. Such behaviour of the foragers is associated with the appearance of recruits which were never seen to fly around the feeder and land alone or before the foragers. Recruits typically circle the feeder together with foragers and land with them or continue their circling flights to land about 10 s later. While circling the feeder recruits, but not foragers, will fly after a moving lure if the presentation of the lure is accompanied by the release of geraniol scent. We propose that recruits that have witnessed a waggle dance are unlikely to find a non-scented feeder unless the foragers continue their flights to that feeder and provide supplementary visual and/or olfactory cues, at least in the vicinity of the feeder. We propose that the synchronisation of the flights of foragers and their behaviour at the feeding site is a strategy designed to overcome a navigational gap in the recruiting process in which the dance can indicate the general area of a food source but not the precise position of a highly localised site.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animal Communication*
  • Animals
  • Bees / drug effects
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Flight, Animal
  • Learning*
  • Odorants
  • Orientation
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Social Behavior
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Sucrose / administration & dosage


  • Sucrose