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Animal behavior, communication and foraging in the honeybee.
The Behavioral Ecology of the Honey Bee
The research in my lab focuses on two main aspects of honey bee behavior. A major emphasis in my lab is on the communication signals that regulate and adjust colony activities in response to changing conditions. Two communication signals are examined. First, we explore how the waggle dance is used to regulate colony-level foraging activity and movement. We use waggle dance activity to map spatial foraging patterns and determine how these patterns change with changing colony food needs. We also use the waggle dance to investigate movement patterns when colonies undergo reproductive swarming and seasonal migration. Second, we study the role of the vibration signal [in the video clip below, the bee with the tag Red 51 begins vibrating at 9 seconds].
The vibration signal is one of the most commonly occurring communication signals in a colony and helps to regulate cooperative activities among workers. We have determined that the signal functions as a type of modulatory communication signal that causes a non-specific increase in activity. This, in turn, enhances many different behaviors, including foraging, brood care, food processing nest maintenance, swarming and house hunting. We have also found that workers use the vibration signal to influence queen behavior during colony reproduction, queen rearing and queen replacement.
[In the video clip above, a worker vibrates a virgin queen at 1 s and then again at 12 s, immediately after which the queen performs piping]. The vibration signal may therefore play a major role in coordinating multiple colony activities.
A second emphasis in my lab is on the biology and behavior of the African honey bee, Apis mellifera scutellata. The African bee was introduced into South America in the 1950s and has become a major threat to beekeeping and agriculture in many parts of the Neotropics. Our work focuses on the nesting biology, foraging behavior, defensive behavior, swarming and migratory movements of the bee in both Africa and Latin America. We are determining the factors that have contributed to the rapid spread of the African bee in the new world. We also are examining if the behavior of the bee in Latin America differs from that in its native African environment. Most recently, we have begun to explore the survival and success of European-African hybrid colonies, because hybridization is at the heart of most programs designed to manage the African honey bee in the new world.
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