Continuous Radar Tracking Illustrates the Development of Multi-destination Routes of Bumblebees

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Woodgate, J. L., Makinson, J. C., Lim, K. S., Reynolds, A. M. and Chittka, L. 2017. Continuous Radar Tracking Illustrates the Development of Multi-destination Routes of Bumblebees. Scientific Reports. 7 (1), p. 17323.

AuthorsWoodgate, J. L., Makinson, J. C., Lim, K. S., Reynolds, A. M. and Chittka, L.
Abstract

Animals that visit multiple foraging sites face a problem, analogous to the Travelling Salesman Problem, of finding an efficient route. We explored bumblebees’ route development on an array of five artificial flowers in which minimising travel distances between individual feeders conflicted with
minimising overall distance. No previous study of bee spatial navigation has been able to follow animals’ movement during learning; we tracked bumblebee foragers continuously, using harmonic radar, and examined the process of route formation in detail for a small number of selected individuals.
On our array, bees did not settle on visit sequences that gave the shortest overall path, but prioritised movements to nearby feeders. Nonetheless, flight distance and duration reduced with experience. This increased efficiency was attributable mainly to experienced bees reducing exploration beyond the feeder array and flights becoming straighter with experience, rather than improvements in the sequence of feeder visits. Flight paths of all legs of a flight stabilised at similar rates, whereas the first few feeder visits became fixed early while bees continued to experiment with the order of later visits. Stabilising early sections of a route and prioritising travel between nearby destinations may reduce the search space, allowing rapid adoption of efficient routes.

Year of Publication2017
JournalScientific Reports
Journal citation7 (1), p. 17323
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1038/s41598-017-17553-1
Web address (URL)https://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/news/natural-route-masters
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
European Research Council - ERC
Funder project or code Space use by bees– radar tracking of spatial movement patterns of key pollinators
Brains on Board: Neuromorphic Control of Flying Robots
Publisher's version
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online11 Dec 2017
Publication process dates
Accepted28 Nov 2017
PublisherSpringer Nature
Nature Publishing Group
Copyright licenseCC BY
Grant ID339347
ISSN2045-2322

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