Honey bees increase their foraging performance and frequency of pollen trips through experience

Simon Klein, Cristian Pasquaretta, Xu Jiang He, Clint Perry, Eirik Søvik, Jean Marc Devaud, Andrew B. Barron*, Mathieu Lihoreau

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    46 Citations (Scopus)
    32 Downloads (Pure)


    Honey bee foragers must supply their colony with a balance of pollen and nectar to sustain optimal colony development. Inter-individual behavioural variability among foragers is observed in terms of activity levels and nectar vs. pollen collection, however the causes of such variation are still open questions. Here we explored the relationship between foraging activity and foraging performance in honey bees (Apis mellifera) by using an automated behaviour monitoring system to record mass on departing the hive, trip duration, presence of pollen on the hind legs and mass upon return to the hive, during the lifelong foraging career of individual bees. In our colonies, only a subset of foragers collected pollen, and no bee exclusively foraged for pollen. A minority of very active bees (19% of the foragers) performed 50% of the colony’s total foraging trips, contributing to both pollen and nectar collection. Foraging performance (amount and rate of food collection) depended on bees’ individual experience (amount of foraging trips completed). We argue that this reveals an important vulnerability for these social bees since environmental stressors that alter the activity and reduce the lifespan of foragers may prevent bees ever achieving maximal performance, thereby seriously compromising the effectiveness of the colony foraging force.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number6778
    Pages (from-to)1-10
    Number of pages10
    JournalScientific Reports
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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