No spatial patterns for early nectar storage in honey bee colonies

M. Eyer, M. K. Greco, J. Lang, P. Neumann, V. Dietemann

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Honey bees, Apis, forage for nectar and pollen, which are subsequently stored in cells of their nests. Despite the importance of honey storage for colony survival, very little is known about decision making by honey bee workers that could optimise the transformation of nectar into honey. Here we test, using diagnostic radioentomology, whether workers use rules based on sugar concentration to optimise the spatial distribution of storage cells during nectar ripening. The data show that after the first 3 days of storing activity, various sugar concentrations were mixed in individual cells. A spatial clustering of cells with content of similar concentration was only occasionally observed. The results, therefore, suggest that at early stages of storage, spatial proximity of cells with similar sugar concentrations does not result in improved efficiency and, therefore, does not seem adaptive. The costs involved in locating particular cells probably outweighs the benefits of clustering. Alternatively, but not mutually exclusive, physiological constraints (e.g. variation in the perception of sugar concentration) might limit such optimisation behaviour. Storing behaviour can serve as a model to better understand food provisioning and complex organisation of insect societies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-59
JournalInsectes Sociaux
Issue number1
Early online date29 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


  • Decision making
  • Diagnostic radioentomology
  • Honey bees
  • Honey storage
  • Nectar
  • Sugar concentration


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