Thesis

The effect of local flower distribution on the foraging and communication behavior of the common eastern bumblebee, bombus impatiens

Bumblebees are able to obtain information both through personal experience and from their conspecifics, but it is unknown if bees are capable of making the best decision when social information conflicts with personal information. Recent research has suggested that bumblebees are capable of communicating complex information, a prerequisite for decision making in a social context. Bees were presented with an arena where the values of food resources were controlled by altering the sugar concentration within artificial flowers and the pollen distribution of natural flowers. The foraging patches that bees chose and the subsequent foraging choices the bees made after social information was acquired was monitored to evaluate the transmission of information. The change in behavior provides insight into what drives a bee’s foraging choices following new information and provides a framework to investigate how bumblebees evaluate and utilize social information that may conflict with their personal information. In response to changes in floral distribution, bees were found to spend more time on foraging trips to higher quality clusters, as well as visiting said clusters with a higher frequency. While the differences between the two feeders were not always significant, a pattern was clear. The lack of consistent significant changes in feeder visits and changes in trip duration could possibly be explained by the small distances at which the experiment took place.

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