More flowers needed!

Hungry Bees lose social harmony

Jul 03, 2015
Honey bees pollinate many of the foods we love, but often they, along with other pollinators, struggle to find enough food for themselves

Honey bees pollinate many of the foods we love, but often they, along with other pollinators, struggle to find enough food for themselves

What drives a bee’s behavior: its individual energetic state or its social environment?  Scientists Christopher Mayack and Dhruba Naug from the Department of Biology at Colorado State University, USA set out to answer this question.  

They trained a group of bees to associate different odors with 2 rewards:

  • one scent with a large reward of sugar solution, and
  • one scent with a small reward of the same solution.

The bees had to wait for one second to reach the small reward and for 5 to get the large reward. Following the training, the preferences of the bees were tested after 6, 18 and 24 hours of starvation. The team presented the odors on opposite sides of the bees’ heads and recorded whether they turned toward the scent of the small or the large reward. The bees’ preference for the quick, but smaller reward increased the hungrier they got.

The results show that honeybees can maintain self-control when they aren’t hungry, but become more impulsive with starvation. These results suggest that the social harmony of a bee colony can be threatened when the energetic states of the group members are running low.

More flowers for bees

For nearly 30 years, Bayer has been promoting bee health. In recent years, this has included a series of large-scale campaigns to increase forage for bees and other pollinators.

In the USA, the Bayer initiative “Feed A Bee” cooperates with organizations to plant thousands of acres of cover crops for bees. The campaign’s goal of planting 50 million flowers in 2015 was exceeded by far.

In Canada, the “Buzzing Gardens” program is making free seeds packets available to plant pollinator-friendly yards and gardens The program is joint initiative of farmers, beekeepers, and agricultural community, including Bayer.

In Europe, Bayer has been supporting the creation of beefriendly blooming areas at its sites and with external partners to increase the availability of forage habitat for bees and other pollinating insects for several years. These activities have been taken up in Germany, France, The Netherlands and Poland, resulting in some 60 miIlion flowers having been planted.

We can all help to keep our bees healthy by planting flowers: in our gardens, balconies and yards. Let’s do it.

The article “Starving honeybees lose self-control“ by Christopher Mayack and Dhruba Naug was published in the journal of the Royal Society Biology Letters.

You can also read the full study here.

Back To Top