collective behaviour; honeybee; communication; learning; social learning strategies; meliponini
Sauthier R I'Anson-Price R. Grüter C. (2017), Worker size in honeybees and its relationship with season and foraging distance, in Apidologie
, 48, 234-246.
Pasquier Grégoire, Grüter Christoph (2016), Individual learning performance and exploratory activity are linked to colony foraging success in a mass-recruiting ant, in Behavioral Ecology
, in press, 1-8.
Grueter Christoph, Keller Laurent (2016), Inter-caste communication in social insects, in CURRENT OPINION IN NEUROBIOLOGY
, 38, 6-11.
Grüter Christoph, Grüter Christoph, Maitre Diane, Blakey Alex, Cole Rosemary, Ratnieks Francis L W (2015), Collective decision making in a heterogeneous environment: Lasius niger colonies preferentially forage at easy to learn locations, in Animal Behaviour
, 104, 189-195.
Segers Francisca H. I. D., Menezes Cristiano, Vollet-Neto Ayrton, Lambert Dorothee, Grueter Christoph (2015), Soldier production in a stingless bee depends on rearing location and nurse behaviour, in BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY AND SOCIOBIOLOGY
, 69(4), 613-623.
Czaczkes Tomer J., Grueter Christoph, Ratnieks Francis L. W. (2015), Trail Pheromones: An Integrative View of Their Role in Social Insect Colony Organization, in ANNUAL REVIEW OF ENTOMOLOGY, VOL 60
, 60, 581-599.
I'Anson Price Robbie, Grüter Christoph (2015), Why, when and where did honey bee dance communication evolve?, in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
, 3, 125-125.
Schürch Roger & Grüter Christoph (2014), Dancing Bees Improve Colony Foraging Success as Long- Term Benefits Outweigh Short-Term Costs, in PLoS ONE
, 9(8), e104660.
Insect societies, like human societies and many other complex biological systems need an efficient regulation of collective tasks to achieve optimal performance. In social insects different groups of workers perform vital collective tasks, such as brood care, nest-defence or foraging. Insect colonies also show an impressive ability to adapt to sudden changes in the environment by means of positive and negative feedback mechanisms, which lead to the reallocation of workers to new tasks or cause recruitment of inactive workers to locations where work is needed. Attractive and inhibitory pheromones produced by foraging ants or dancing in bees are examples of such positive and negative feedbacks. Key to this process of dynamic self-organisation is the ability of workers to acquire, process and act upon information from their local environment. Therefore, in order to understand self-organisation of insect societies it is important to understand how individual workers use information to adjust their behaviour and how these decision-making rules increase the efficiency of the overall system. The best studied context of self-organisation is social insects is collective foraging. A wide range of social information cues and signals that are involved in foraging-regulation have been identified in the last century. Apart from social information, that is information provided by other nest-members, workers also use information acquired directly during interactions with the environment, such as spatial memories about good food source locations, i.e. private information. Alternatively, workers might ignore both social and private information and try to locate completely new food sources, often called scouting. Most researchers have studied the role of one particular information source at a time, e.g. a particular pheromone or a memory, but also our understanding of how individual foragers use different simultaneously occurring information sources has improved in recent years. However, there is a lack in understanding of how important different kinds of information are for colony performance, i.e. how individual information-use and decision-making strategies affect collective success. This is needed to understand the adaptive significance of information for colony performance and, therefore, the selection pressures that led to the evolution of different communication systems. This project will address this gap in understanding and test the importance of key information sources for colony performance, using ecologically and economically important model systems: European and tropical honey bees (Apis mellifera and Meliponini). I will use observational, experimental and theoretical approaches to study how individual information-use strategies affect collective performance. To do this, I will test the role of spatial communication (social information; the waggle dance) and learning ability (private information; tactile appetitive learning) for foraging success, mainly measured as the amount of honey and brood produced by a colony. Because the value of information about the environment is likely to depend on the characteristics of this environment, I will explore if communication about food sources and individual learning are more relevant under certain conditions, such as a stable versus an unpredictable foraging environment.Project 1 explores if and how the spatial information of the honey bee waggle dance improves colony foraging success in a naturally changing temperate habitat. Project 2 tests the prediction, that spatial communication is particularly important in rapidly changing environments. In project 3, I will test if and how the learning performance of colonies (workers of different colonies vary in their learning speed) affects colony foraging performance. In project 4, I will develop an agent-based simulation model to test the effect of different information-use strategies (use social information: waggle dance, use private information: route memory, use no information: scouting) on colony performance and how this depends on the characteristics of the foraging environment. Project 5 studies the importance of social information and different types of communication systems at a species level. I will study 12 sympatric species of stingless honey bees (Meliponini) in Brazil and explore how colonies of different species that rely on communication to varying degrees perform in foraging environments that change in stability.I will be based in the Evolutionary Genetics and Ecology of Social Life laboratory of Prof. Laurent Keller at the University of Lausanne. Laurent Keller heads one of the world leading laboratories in the study of social insect biology. This provides me with a stimulating environment for the proposed project. In addition, cooperations with colleagues in Brazil and the UK are involved in projects 4 and 5.