How a swarm decides: An NPR story on the democratic nature of honeybees

A great blog post from beekeepers in East Tennessee giving an informative summary of the democratic behaviour of honeybees in swarming. Do bees make decisions better than humans? Read more… Check out the link to audio interview with Thomas Seeley, author of ‘Honeybee Democracy’.

Blount County Beekeepers Association

Thomas Seeley’s book, Honeybee Democracy, describes all sorts of fascinating behaviors of honeybees.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.46.03 AMNone of those behaviors is more interesting than how a swarm of bees chooses a place to live.

Here are the basics:

  • Scout bees — older, more experienced bees — leave the swarm to look for a good location.
  • The bees that find possible locations spend as much as 30 minutes or more investigating them. They take into consideration a number of factors such as size of the cavity, direction of the entrance, distance from the ground, condition of the wood, etc.
  • If a scout is convinced that this could be a good place for the swarm, she returns to the swarm and does a waggle dance. The enthusiasm of her dance indicates how she “rates” the site.
  • Other bees take off for the site to do an inspection.
  • If they agree with the original…

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