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Short-range foraging of the honey bee, Apis mellifera ligustica spin Cmiralova, Daniela

Abstract

Short-distance scouting and recruiting behaviour of the Italian honeybee, Apis mellifera ligustica Spin., and the accuracy with which a recruit locates a food source indicated by successful foragers were investigated in this study. Peppermint, orange, and cinnamon oil scents were more attractive than the scents of pure honey, lavender, or anise seed oil. Sugar stimulated further visits, but when a nearby source dried up, visitors quickly went to a more distant source, though they intermittently checked the original site. The concentration of the sugar solution directly influenced recruitment. Colour and shape were most important for recruits initially locating an attractive site, but a recruit would not land and take up food unless the correct scent was present. Bees regularly investigated and visited dishes in sunlight, but seldom visited dishes in shadow. Scouts communicated direction for distances as short as 2.5 meters. When the location of the food source was changed, bees searched until they found the new location. They then continued to arrive via the original location for approximately one half-hour; thereafter they travelled directly between the hive and new location, taking directional bearings to those respective places. In absence of polarized sky-light, the route to a low source went around landmarked obstacles; in presence of polarized light, the bees flew over such obstacles. When leaving a new food location after their first two or three visits, bees hovered over it, circled, and spiralled upward in a set pattern; during later visits they returned directly to hive without such locational checks When two food sources were set up at the same distance and direction from the hive, but at different heights, two distinct groups of foragers formed, each recruited to only one of the food sources by the original scouts. These results show that recruits of the Italian honey bee, Apis m. ligustica, can locate a food source reported by others foragers with great accuracy even at short distances from the hive.

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