Project: Facebook for Bees: A Social Network

Team: Fernando Wario Vazquez, Tim Landgraf, Raúl Rojas

Research institution: Freie Universität Berlin

Abstract: Being insects, having a brain with the size of a pinhead, bees exhibit amazing cognitive capabilities. The scouts explore and learn the terrain and build up a highly detailed neuronal representation of the surrounding environment. Once back in the hive, valuable locations are communicated to potentials recruits by translating location information into body movements; a behavior known as “waggle dance”. To understand how exactly dance is decoded by the recruits, advanced video and radar tracking techniques and a robotic honeybee (Robobee) that mimic this dance have been developed in previous stages of the research.
During a set of experiments related to Robobee a group of 100 tagged bees was trained to forage from an artificial food source, these bees were observed during a two months period, intriguingly; some bees formed “foraging groups”. They collected nectar from the same artificial flower and kept being together even when this food source was depleted. By the end of the summer as the number of natural food sources were in decreased, the bees which were part of a group stayed in the same spot on the comb “unemployed”. Once dances were triggered again, those bees, formerly grouped in a foraging team, followed the same dances. Were these bees organized in a peer group by chance or was there a dynamic adaptation of the social network?

Searching for an answer to this question we develop a system that will allow us to track all of the individuals inside a honeycomb, usually between 2,000 and 4,000, we will conduct an experiment for a 60 days period, 24 hours at day since we are not only interested on their behavior during the working hours but also on their sleeping habits.

This study is not limited to answer the question “who is waggle dancing with whom?”, the data will be analyzed regarding a broader set of questions. How are peer groups formed, how long do they last, which tasks can be assigned to peer groups? If it was known what determined this group formation, would the use of this knowledge increase the efficiency of Robobee?

Last modified 8 years ago Last modified on Sep 18, 2013 11:48:43 AM

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