According to a report from the frontline: “Using a model inspired by networks of coupled neurons, researchers from the University of Sheffield, led by Andreagiovanni Reina, have investigated the process by which swarms of honeybees choose the best nesting location among a set of potential sites with different qualities.
The study shows that the frequency of signaling among bees is a key to their decision-making. If signaling is too scarce it hampers the attainment of consensus within the swarm; if it is too frequent it causes the bees to commit to early-discovered options that are of inferior quality. The authors suggest that ecological factors determining the density of suitable nest sites may have led to selective pressures on the evolution of an optimal signaling frequency. The work was published in the latest issue of Physical Review E.
According to the authors, to date, the nest-site selection process has mostly been modeled and theoretically analyzed for the case of binary decisions. However, when the number of alternative nests is larger than two, the decision process dynamics qualitatively change. Whereas, they say, previous binary models highlighted the crucial role of inhibitory stop-signalling, the key parameter in our new analysis is the relative time invested by swarm members in an individual discovery and in signaling behaviors.”