IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Bumble bees (Bombus terrestris) store both food and information in honeypots


  • Anna Dornhaus
  • Lars Chittka


Social insect foragers often transmit information about food sources to nest mates. In bumble bees (Bombus terrestris), for example, successful foragers use excited motor displays and a pheromone as communication signals. In addition, bees could make use of an indirect pathway of information flow, via the honey stores. We show here that, indeed, bees in the nest continuously monitor honeypots and sample their contents, thus obtaining information on supply and demand of nectar. When there is an influx of nectar into the nest, the colony deploys more workers for foraging. The number of new foragers depends on sugar concentration. Foragers returning with high-quality sugar solution display more "excited runs" on the nest structure. The recruits' response, however, does not depend on modulated behavior by foragers: more workers start to forage with high quality of incoming nectar, even when this nectar is brought by a pipette. Moreover, we show that the readiness of bees to respond to recruitment signals or incoming nectar also depends on colony demand. When colony nectar stores are full, the response of bees to equal amounts of nectar influx is smaller than when stores are empty. When colony nectar stores are depleted, foragers spend more time running excitedly and less time probing pots in the nest and run with higher average speed, possibly to disperse the alerting pheromone more efficiently. However, more bees respond to nectar influx to empty stores, whether or not this is accompanied by forager signals. Thus, honeypots serve to store information as well as food. Copyright 2005.

Suggested Citation

  • Anna Dornhaus & Lars Chittka, 2005. "Bumble bees (Bombus terrestris) store both food and information in honeypots," Behavioral Ecology, International Society for Behavioral Ecology, vol. 16(3), pages 661-666, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:16:y:2005:i:3:p:661-666

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:16:y:2005:i:3:p:661-666. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Oxford University Press) or (Christopher F. Baum). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.