There are so many more bee communities than a hive of worker bees without thinking performing their tasks while the queen hovers over them.
To some extent they are their own complex organism. But they are also living societies, made up of individuals. Worker bees are not mere drones – they have a stronger individual will than we could imagine.
By understanding these bees, we could only improve our understanding of another species – including ourselves.
Buzz Buzz – A new study released Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals details of the complex social interaction of honey bees (Apis mellifera). The research perfects trophalaxis, which includes not only the exchange of food between bees, but also other forms of face-to-face communication.
The researchers studied how bees display individual behavior during social interactions, using certain criteria to determine bee individuality.
“We reviewed measures of how often bees communicated with each other,” says Nigel Goldenfeld, co-author of the study and professor of advanced physics studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Inverse.
To record these social interactions, the researchers first barcoded the bee code. (Yes, just like you would for an item in a store). They then used high-resolution video cameras to take pictures of pairs of bees.
Interactions of bees – such as those observed in humans – appear to follow a pattern of distribution with large tails, suggesting a significant degree of variation in social interactions and individual behavior.
Goldenfeld explains the distribution of heavy tails as follows: “If you measured the height of students in the classroom, they could have an average of 5 feet plus or minus 3 inches, and most students within a few inches of average. Distributions with heavy tails do not have such an obvious average.”
“If the heights were distributed with a heavy tail, you might have most students around 5 feet, some around 6 feet, a few around 7 feet, and an even smaller number say 12 feet,” he says.
“But this [distribution] it happens for many quantities that you can measure, such as wealth or people’s income, ”says Goldenfeld. Or, as in this case, social interactions.
According to research analysis, some bees showed a higher degree of food sharing and social interaction than others.
“Just like humans, some bees participate in more interactions than others,” Goldenfeld says.
Just like us? – This connection proved too curious to be able to resist these researchers. After observing honey bees, the scientists realized that the findings could be applied to humans as well. The scientists compared the two species.
“Bees are social insects and it is relatively easy to study large populations of bees, perform multiple replicates of experiments and thus obtain accurate statistics,” says Goldenfeld. “It wasn’t until we got the results that we compared ourselves to people, really just out of curiosity.”
To do this, Goldenfeld and his colleagues used the Gini coefficient – a measure commonly used to determine income inequality, but which can also measure inequality among social interactions – to measure differences in the behavior of individuals both among bees and among humans.
“For humans, you could measure it by how many times they meet someone over coffee each week. For bees, you can measure it by how many other bees interact at a given time,” Goldenfeld says.
They found that honey bees have a Gini coefficient ranging from 0.2 to 0.3, which means that there is a considerable degree of individual behavior in the social interactions of bees.
By comparing bees to humans, scientists have found that some bees – like some humans – communicate more and longer, making them more social than their peers.
“It really turned out that the data looked the same,” says Goldenfeld.
It is important to note that the similarities are limited. Bees in this study did not show as many differences in social interactions as humans, who had a higher Gini coefficient ranging from 0.3 to 0.5.
“So, although individual bees are different, they do not differ from each other as much as humans,” say the study’s authors.
But the results seen here may look quite different in a genetically diverse bee population. Researchers believe the findings ultimately relate to other social species, including humans.
“The fact that we discovered these common possibilities and were able to explain them theoretically is important for human interactions,” Goldenfeld says. “This means that we should not try to explain universal behavior using ideas and patterns of behavior that are particularly dependent on the specific characteristics of human societies.”
Abstract: The duration of an interaction event in a society is a fundamental measure of its collective nature and potentially reflects variability in an individual’s behavior. Here, we performed a high-throughput measurement of trophalaxis and the duration of face-to-face events experienced by a colony of honey bees throughout their lives. The distribution of interaction time is difficult, as previously noted for human face-to-face interactions. We have developed a pair interaction theory that takes into account individual variability and predicts scaling behavior for both bees and existing human data sets. The individual variability of worker bees was not different, but less than that in humans, which may have reflected their greater genetic connection. Our work shows how individual differences can lead to universal patterns of behavior that transcend species and specific mechanisms for social interactions.