Aspects of Foraging in Bees: Apple Pollination, Native Bee Populations, and Honey Bee Communication

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Bees are well known for their ability to pollinate a diverse range of plants. In the process of gathering food (pollen and nectar), bees transfer pollen from one flower to another, facilitating reproduction. I investigate two important aspects of foraging: pollination of an important crop by native bees and communication of floral resources by social bees.
Native bees that pollinate apples are an economically important and potentially limited resource. Native bees are often overlooked since orchard growers traditionally rely on managed honey bees for pollination. Given their potential to ameliorate the deficit of honey bee pollinators, it is important to identify the suite of apple pollinators in New York State, the life history of each native bee group in relation to apple pollination, and to promote their occurrence in and around apple orchards.
In order to facilitate visiting flowers, collecting nectar and pollen, and pollinating crops, honey bees have a language that conveys information from a recent foraging trip. This communication maximizes colony-level foraging efficiency and is achieved by a complex dance language. An interesting phenomenon in the dance language is the presence of distance-dependent error; precision increases as food-source distance increases. Here, I investigate three hypotheses for why there is imprecision within dances. Bees may be constrained, either physically or physiologically, to high precision for nearby food sources. Alternately, there may be an adaptive value to scattering recruits over a larger area. Direction indicated within dances is gleaned from the sun?s azimuth, but the extent to which to sun?s position influences the precision of dances is unclear. Here, I test the hypothesis that error encoded in dances changes throughout the day. Through a series of seminal experiments, Karl von Frisch decoded the honey bee?s dance language. Since then, it has been widely accepted that there are two distinct types of dances: the round dance and the waggle dance and that they convey different information. Here I show that distance and direction information appears to be encoded in the same manner in both forms, suggesting that there is only one recruitment signal, the adjustable waggle dance.

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Apis mellifera; communication; waggle dance; round dance; Andrena


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