Bees provide an invaluable service to both natural and agricultural ecosystems by pollinating flowers. Understanding how they use the space available to them, and how and when they find food, will provide valuable insights into how to manage landscapes to benefit plants, insects and agricultural crops.
Dr Joseph Woodgate, of the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at QMUL, said: “This study provided an unprecedented look at where the bees flew, how their behaviour changed as they gained experience and how they balanced the need to explore their surroundings – looking for good patches of flowers – with the desire to collect as much food as possible from the places they had already discovered.”
Dr James Makinson, who is joint-first-author with Dr Woodgate, added: “One bee was something of a lifelong vagabond, never settling down on a single patch of flowers. In contrast another of our bees was exceptionally diligent, quickly switching after only three flights from exploration of the surrounding environment to focusing exclusively on a single forage location for six consecutive days.
“After six days this bee switched her attention to a closer forage source. She was able to do this without re-exploring her environment, suggesting she had remembered the location from her initial explorations. Our other two bees interspersed foraging for a single location with exploratory flights throughout their entire life.”
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