Submitted to: Journal of Animal Behavior
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/18/2001
Publication Date: 1/27/2002
Citation: Lewis, L. A., Schneider, S. S., DeGrandi-Hoffman, G. Factors influencing the selection of recipients by workers performing vibration signals in colonies of the honeybee, Apis mellifera. 2002. Animal Behaviour 63, 361-367.
Interpretive Summary: The vibration signal performed by honey bees is defined as an activity where a worker grasps a nestmate and rapidly vibrates her own body up and down for about 1-2 seconds. While this behavior is frequently seen in honey bee colonies, its exact purpose is not well understood. We conducted a series of experiments to determine the relationship between workers that vibrate nestmates and their choices of whom they vibrate. This information might provide some insights concerning the purpose of the vibration signal. We found that workers did not discriminate based upon the age of the nestmate they chose to vibrate. Workers showed a slight preference for vibrating full-sisters (i.e., workers that had the same drone father as that of the vibrating worker) versus half-sisters (i.e. workers with a different drone father than that of the vibrating worker). Vibration signals were most consistently directed at inactive workers. Thus, the vibration signal might be the first step in recruiting inactive workers for tasks that need to be performed in the hive.
Technical Abstract: The vibration signal of the honey bee functions as "modulatory communication" because it elicits a general increase in activity that may help integrate the behavior of workers that perform different but interrelated tasks. Workers that produce vibration signals contact numerous other bees some of which receive the signal while others are "bypassed" (antennated but not vibrated). We monitored vibration signal behavior in six observation colonies to investigate the degree to which vibrating bees selected among potential recipients and the factors that influenced these choices. Vibrating bees roamed throughout the next and rejected more than half of all potential recipients contacted during the periods of signal production. Worker age did not influence recipient choice. There were no differences in the mean age of vibrated versus bypassed workers of the proportion of foraging age versus pre-foraging age recipients. However, a worker's activity level influenced by the likelihood of it receiving vibration signals. Signals were preferentially directed toward workers that were inactive versus active when contacted by the vibrating bee. Selection of recipients was also influenced by relatedness. Vibrating bees were more likely to perform signals on super-sisters versus half-sisters, although this difference was slight. Recipient choice by vibrating bees may help to simultaneously activate workers of all ages. This, in turn, could help coordinate the behavior of different worker age groups that perform interdependent tasks, but which may be spatially segregated in the nest.