The honeybee waggle dance: evolutionary marvel but modern-day relic? – Elli Leadbeater, Royal Holloway University of London

October 19, 2021 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Main Lecture Theatre
Department of Zoology but also online (ask organizers for link).

The honeybee (Apis mellifera) dance communication system is a marvel of collective behaviour, but the added value it brings to colony foraging efficiency is poorly understood. In temperate environments, preventing communication of foraging locations rarely decreases colony food intake, potentially because simultaneous transmission of olfactory information plays an overwhelmingly dominant role in foraging. This has led to the understanding that recruitment to food through dancing is a novel but rarely useful phenomenon outside the tropical environments where Apis evolved. Here, I will first show how social network analyses can be used to disentangle the contributions of multiple information networks to the spread of a behaviour, identifying the contexts in which dance communication truly matters amid a complex system full of redundancy. I will then show how the decoding the dance communication system can be used to quantify the resources offered to pollinators in modern-day agricultural environments that pose major conservation challenges. The honeybee waggle dance is an evolutionary marvel that is not only useful to bees, but also to those who seek to conserve both managed and wild pollinators in modern-day landscapes that are becoming increasingly barren for insect life.

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