Information flow and regulation of foraging activity in bumble bees (Bombus spp.)

Anna Dornhaus, Lars Chittka

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Communication in the context of foraging in bumble bees has received less attention than in other social bees. Yet, recent studies have revealed that information flow mediates colony foraging activity. The species studied do not recruit to specific locations, but bees can learn the scent of food sources at the nest, which may reduce their search time. Location communication may not confer high benefits to bumble bees. But bees react to nectar influx with increased foraging activity, with high quality food eliciting more activity. This shows that bees recognize and sample freshly collected nectar. If the colony has no demand for food, foraging activity does not increase. Successful foragers distribute a tergal gland pheromone in the nest that also elicits higher foraging activity. Information exchange in the nest thus enables bumble bees to base their decision to forage on demand and the presence and profitability of food.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-192
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2004


  • Bombus terrestris
  • Collective foraging
  • Communication
  • Recruitment
  • Social insect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science


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