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Large scale homing in honeybees.

Pahl M, Zhu H, Tautz J, Zhang S - PLoS ONE (2011)

Bottom Line: Honeybee foragers frequently fly several kilometres to and from vital resources, and communicate those locations to their nest mates by a symbolic dance language.We found that homing rate, homing speed and the maximum homing distance depend on the release direction.Our findings suggest that such large scale homing is facilitated by global landmarks acting as beacons, and possibly the entire skyline panorama.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: BEEgroup, Biocentre, Würzburg University, Würzburg, Germany. mario.pahl@uni-wuerzburg.de

ABSTRACT
Honeybee foragers frequently fly several kilometres to and from vital resources, and communicate those locations to their nest mates by a symbolic dance language. Research has shown that they achieve this feat by memorizing landmarks and the skyline panorama, using the sun and polarized skylight as compasses and by integrating their outbound flight paths. In order to investigate the capacity of the honeybees' homing abilities, we artificially displaced foragers to novel release spots at various distances up to 13 km in the four cardinal directions. Returning bees were individually registered by a radio frequency identification (RFID) system at the hive entrance. We found that homing rate, homing speed and the maximum homing distance depend on the release direction. Bees released in the east were more likely to find their way back home, and returned faster than bees released in any other direction, due to the familiarity of global landmarks seen from the hive. Our findings suggest that such large scale homing is facilitated by global landmarks acting as beacons, and possibly the entire skyline panorama.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Map of the experimental area.20 bees were released at each marked spot. White lines show terrain contour, and white areas denote hills blocking the direct view to the vicinity of the hive. Up, down, left and right-pointing triangles indicate releases in the north, south, west and east, respectively.
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pone-0019669-g001: Map of the experimental area.20 bees were released at each marked spot. White lines show terrain contour, and white areas denote hills blocking the direct view to the vicinity of the hive. Up, down, left and right-pointing triangles indicate releases in the north, south, west and east, respectively.

Mentions: The experimental area is shown in the satellite map in Figure 1, and the surrounding panorama as seen from the hive is shown in Figure 2. We released groups of bees in the four cardinal directions in various distances from the hive. In the eastern direction, the bees were released in rural areas (up to 3300 m distance), on top of and behind the 830 m high Mount Ainslie (MA, 4400 m to 7800 m distant), and further away (up to 13000 m) behind MA. Black Mountain (BM, elevation 810 m) was visible from the rural areas and from the top of MA (4400 m away), but not from the release spots further away, where MA blocked the direct line of sight. We chose a line of release spots slightly north easterly from the hive, in order to use the peak of MA as a visual barrier for the bees at the distant release spots behind the mountain. The release spots in the western direction were chosen in a way similar to the eastern ones, i.e. to have the large visual barrier of BM between the hive and the distant release spots. Behind the 1400 m spot on top of BM, the mountain was still visible from all release spots, but from a different angle than the one the bees were used to. MA was not visible from behind BM. In the northern direction, the bees were released in rural areas at a maximum distance of 7000 m from the hive. BM and MA were visible from all spots, although from an unfamiliar angle. In the south, the line of release spots crossed Lake Burley-Griffin (LBG). Bees homing from 800 m to 1500 m distance were released from a boat. BM and MA were visible from all releases up to the 5000 m spot on top of Red Hill (RH), but not from the spots behind RH at 6 and 7 km.


Large scale homing in honeybees.

Pahl M, Zhu H, Tautz J, Zhang S - PLoS ONE (2011)

Map of the experimental area.20 bees were released at each marked spot. White lines show terrain contour, and white areas denote hills blocking the direct view to the vicinity of the hive. Up, down, left and right-pointing triangles indicate releases in the north, south, west and east, respectively.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3094336&req=5

pone-0019669-g001: Map of the experimental area.20 bees were released at each marked spot. White lines show terrain contour, and white areas denote hills blocking the direct view to the vicinity of the hive. Up, down, left and right-pointing triangles indicate releases in the north, south, west and east, respectively.
Mentions: The experimental area is shown in the satellite map in Figure 1, and the surrounding panorama as seen from the hive is shown in Figure 2. We released groups of bees in the four cardinal directions in various distances from the hive. In the eastern direction, the bees were released in rural areas (up to 3300 m distance), on top of and behind the 830 m high Mount Ainslie (MA, 4400 m to 7800 m distant), and further away (up to 13000 m) behind MA. Black Mountain (BM, elevation 810 m) was visible from the rural areas and from the top of MA (4400 m away), but not from the release spots further away, where MA blocked the direct line of sight. We chose a line of release spots slightly north easterly from the hive, in order to use the peak of MA as a visual barrier for the bees at the distant release spots behind the mountain. The release spots in the western direction were chosen in a way similar to the eastern ones, i.e. to have the large visual barrier of BM between the hive and the distant release spots. Behind the 1400 m spot on top of BM, the mountain was still visible from all release spots, but from a different angle than the one the bees were used to. MA was not visible from behind BM. In the northern direction, the bees were released in rural areas at a maximum distance of 7000 m from the hive. BM and MA were visible from all spots, although from an unfamiliar angle. In the south, the line of release spots crossed Lake Burley-Griffin (LBG). Bees homing from 800 m to 1500 m distance were released from a boat. BM and MA were visible from all releases up to the 5000 m spot on top of Red Hill (RH), but not from the spots behind RH at 6 and 7 km.

Bottom Line: Honeybee foragers frequently fly several kilometres to and from vital resources, and communicate those locations to their nest mates by a symbolic dance language.We found that homing rate, homing speed and the maximum homing distance depend on the release direction.Our findings suggest that such large scale homing is facilitated by global landmarks acting as beacons, and possibly the entire skyline panorama.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: BEEgroup, Biocentre, Würzburg University, Würzburg, Germany. mario.pahl@uni-wuerzburg.de

ABSTRACT
Honeybee foragers frequently fly several kilometres to and from vital resources, and communicate those locations to their nest mates by a symbolic dance language. Research has shown that they achieve this feat by memorizing landmarks and the skyline panorama, using the sun and polarized skylight as compasses and by integrating their outbound flight paths. In order to investigate the capacity of the honeybees' homing abilities, we artificially displaced foragers to novel release spots at various distances up to 13 km in the four cardinal directions. Returning bees were individually registered by a radio frequency identification (RFID) system at the hive entrance. We found that homing rate, homing speed and the maximum homing distance depend on the release direction. Bees released in the east were more likely to find their way back home, and returned faster than bees released in any other direction, due to the familiarity of global landmarks seen from the hive. Our findings suggest that such large scale homing is facilitated by global landmarks acting as beacons, and possibly the entire skyline panorama.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus