Bees are smart, anybody knows that, but swarms are smarter. They have the ability to choose the best dwelling place among a set of potential nest sites with different qualities. Signalling serves the bees to convince their mates to choose the same site they have visited, and to prevent that other bees recruit to different sites. Our latest study proposes that the frequency of signalling is a key parameter: on the one hand, scarce signalling among bees hampers the attainment of consensus within the swarm; on the other hand, too frequent signalling reduces decision accuracy by quickly committing to early-discovered inferior quality options. The optimal signalling frequency lies in the middle. We suggest that the ability of bees to fine-tune their communication frequencies helps them to master their house-hunting task. Hence, this study hypothesises how ecological factors determining the density of suitable nest sites may have led to selective pressures for the evolution of an optimal stable signalling frequency. It also indicates a possible signalling strategy of honeybees: starting with few signals and gradually increasing the signalling frequency through time, until convergence is reached. In addition, our results may lead to the implementation of better algorithms for distributed decision making, to be employed in sensor networks or robot swarms.
A. Reina, J.A.R. Marshall, V. Trianni, T. Bose. Model of the best-of-N nest-site selection process in honeybees. Physical Review E, 95(5): 052411, 2017.