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Volume 32, Number 1, January-February 2001
Page(s) 105 - 111
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2001115

Apidologie 32 (2001) 105-111

Homing ability of the bumblebee Bombus terrestris (Hymenoptera: Apidae)

David Goulson and Jane C. Stout

Biodiversity and Ecology Division, School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton, Biomedical Sciences Building, Bassett Crescent East, Southampton SO16 7PX, UK

(Received 8 August 2000; revised 18 October 2000; accepted 14 November 2000)

The ability of bumblebees to locate their nest site following artificial displacement was investigated. Bombus terrestris (Hymenoptera: Apidae) workers were marked with numbered tags and displaced up to 15 km from their nest. Bees returned from distances of up to 9.8 km, with the proportion of bees returning declining with distance of the release site from the nest. Bees were slow to return to their nests, often taking several days when even the most distant sites were all within 1 h direct flight time. These findings concur with those of earlier studies on various Hymenoptera, and they are consistent with previous suggestions that the most probable homing mechanism is a systematic search until familiar landmarks are encountered. Our results also suggest that the natural foraging range of B. terrestris may span several km.

Key words: Bombus terrestris / central place foraging / navigation / home range

Correspondence and reprints: David Goulson

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2001