Meeting Abstract

9-5  Saturday, Jan. 4 09:00 - 09:15  Honeybee swarms use a flow-mediated pheromone signaling scheme to coordinate aggregation PETERS, JM*; PETERSEN, KH; Cornell University; Cornell University

Reproductive honeybee swarms form when thousands of workers fly from the nest with a queen, land on a nearby surface and aggregate around the queen to form a bivouac or cluster. The queen emits a volatile pheromone to attract the workers, but its dispersal is initially diffusion-limited. When a worker locates the queen it orients its head towards her, exposes the Nasonov scent gland on its abdomen and fans a jet of pheromone-laden air away from the queen with its wings. Other workers align with this airflow and propagate it. In this way, thousands of workers align with a collectively induced airstream which emanates from the queen’s position. Workers toggle between “scent-fanning” and “scent-tracking” as they navigate upstream toward the queen. To better understand how individual behaviors scale up to generate this emergent aggregation scheme, we filmed the aggregation behavior of small artificial honeybee swarms and tracked the position, orientation and behavioral state of individual bees over time. Our preliminary results suggest that this phenomenon has two phases: (1) a rapid transition from disorder to order triggered by flow-mediated signal propagation and (2) a slow progression toward the queen which is structured by the emergent flow-pheromone field initialized in phase 1. This is an extraordinary example of how groups of individual organisms can sense and actuate their environment locally to achieve global coordination.