Even bumblebees don’t like to share expertise with newcomers

London, March 21 (IANS) You may compare this with human attitude to a certain extent but when it comes to well-qualified bumblebees, they do not like sharing their pollinating knowledge with the less experienced bees and even attack newcomers in the field, researchers report.

The study focused on whether bees can copy other bees’ flower visitation sequences in the field to improve their foraging and to show how animals with relatively simple brains find workable solutions to complex route-finding problem.

“Like other pollinators, bees face complex routing challenges when collecting nectar and pollen. They have to learn how to link patches of flowers together in the most efficient way to minimise their travel distance and flight costs, just like in a travelling salesman problem,” explained lead author Mathieu Lihoreau from thd Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) in Britain.

The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, revealed that though the newcomers tried to copy the choices of seasoned foragers, the more experienced bees really didn’t appreciate being copied.

“We wanted to monitor the way bumblebees behave when they bump into each other at flowers — would they compete, attack each other, or tolerate each other?” added Lars Chittka, one of the authors.

The team set up one of the largest outdoor flight cages ever used in bee research and installed a range of artificial flowers, fitted with motion-sensitive video cameras which had controlled nectar flow rates for the bees to visit.

The researchers then allowed two bees in at a time: One more experienced resident, and one a newcomer.

While the newcomers did try to copy the choices of seasoned foragers, the more experienced bees really didn’t appreciate their behaviour and frequently attacked the newcomers and tried to evict them from flowers.

“Our study is the first to examine the foraging routes followed by multiple bees at the same time. Responses to intense initial competition between bees for nectar could explain how pollinators gradually learn to visit different patches of flowers across the landscape,” Lihoreau commented.

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