Free access
Volume 35, Number 2, March-April 2004
Information flow and group decision making in social bees
Page(s) 117 - 131
Apidologie 35 (2004) 117-131
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2004006

The vibration signal, modulatory communication and the organization of labor in honey bees, Apis mellifera

Stanley S. Schneider and Lee A. Lewis

Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC 28223, USA
(Received 10 July 2003; revised 17 October 2003; accepted 15 December 2003)

Abstract - Cooperative activities in honey bee colonies involve the coordinated interactions of multiple workers that perform different, but interrelated tasks. A central objective in the study of honey bee sociality therefore is to understand the communication signals used to integrate behavior within and among worker groups. This paper focuses on the role of the "vibration signal" in organizing labor in honey bee colonies. The vibration signal functions as a type of "modulatory communication signal". It is directed toward diverse recipients, causes a non-specific increase in activity that may alter responsiveness to a wide array of stimuli, and thus may influence the performance of many different tasks simultaneously. We review the empirical evidence that the signal is involved in coordinating at least three colony-level activities: food collection and foraging-dependent tasks, queen behavior during swarming and queen replacement, and house hunting by honey bee swarms. Signals that function like the vibration signal may be widespread in highly social insects and social animals in general, and may help to fine-tune the collective decision-making processes that underlie cooperative actions in a wide array of species.

Key words: vibration signal / modulatory communication / collective decision making / Apis mellifera / multimodal signals

Corresponding author: Stanley S. Schneider

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2004