The sum of the parts …
I went swimming with Tess and Anna tonight and given that I’m not too well I only swam for 30 lengths, which left plenty of time to sit by the pool, watching the girls and reading New Scientist. Of the articles I read I was most amazed by this description of how honey bee swarms find a new site.
Several hundred scout bees set off to search potential sites, such as holes in trees. Each scout will spend about 30 minutes assessing relevant factors such as the size of the cavity, the presence of ants and the aspect of the sun.
The scouts then fly back to the cluster and use a combination of waggle dances and runs across the body of the cluster to transmit information about the site to the other bees. The more runs across the cluster a scout makes – on average 150 – the higher the scout rates the site.
The scout then revisits the potential home, taking one or two “recruits” with it to make their own assessment. If a recruit likes the site too, it will return to the cluster and give positive feedback in the form of a similar waggle-and-run combination, which generates yet more recruits, and so on. If enough recruits agree on a particular site, a “quorum threshold” is reached and the swarm lifts off to the new location. This ongoing recruitment process means that the swarm can simultaneously assess, compare and “remember” different sites during selection.
However, if recruits disagree with a scout’s positive assessment of a potential site, then support for it will fade away
A great example of how the sum of the parts is greater than the whole!