Dance-communicated distances support nectar foraging as a supply-driven system

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The Royal Society


Much like human consumers, honeybees adjust their behaviours based on resources' supply and demand. For both, interactions occur in fluctuating conditions. Honeybees weigh the cost of flight against the benefit of nectar and pollen, which are nutritionally distinct resources that serve different purposes: bees collect nectar continuously to build large honey stores for overwintering, but they collect pollen intermittently to build modest stores for brood production periods. Therefore, nectar foraging can be considered a supply-driven process, whereas pollen foraging is demand-driven. Here we compared the foraging distances, communicated by waggle dances and serving as a proxy for cost, for nectar and pollen in three ecologically distinct landscapes in Virginia. We found that honeybees foraged for nectar at distances 14% further than for pollen across all three sites (n = 6224 dances, p < 0.001). Specific temporal dynamics reveal that monthly nectar foraging occurs at greater distances compared with pollen foraging 85% of the time. Our results strongly suggest that honeybee foraging cost dynamics are consistent with nectar supply-driven and pollen demand-driven processes.



demand-driven, honeybee foraging, supply-driven, waggle dance