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Recruitment-dance signals draw larger audiences when honey bee colonies have multiple patrilines

  • Author(s): Girard, M. B.
  • Mattila, H. R.
  • Seeley, T. D.
  • et al.

Honey bee queens (Apis mellifera) who mate with multiple males produce colonies that are filled with numerous genetically distinct patrilines of workers. A genetically diverse colony benefits from an enhanced foraging effort, fuelled in part by an increase in the number of recruitment signals that are produced by foragers. However, the influence of patriline diversity on the attention paid to these signals by audiences of potentially receptive workers remains unexplored. To determine whether recruitment dances performed by foragers in multiple-patriline colonies attract a greater number of dance followers than dances in colonies that lack patriline diversity, we trained workers from multiple- and single-patriline colonies to forage in a greenhouse and monitored their dance-following activity back in the hives. On average, more workers followed a dance if it was performed in a multiple-patriline colony rather than a single-patriline colony (33% increase), and for a greater number of dance circuits per follower. Furthermore, dance-following workers in multiple-patriline colonies were more likely to exit their hive after following a dance, although this did not translate to a difference in colony-level exit rates between treatment types. Recruiting nest mates to profitable food sources through dance communication is critical to a colony’s foraging success and long-term fitness; polyandrous queens produce colonies that benefit not only from increased recruitment signalling, but also from the generation of larger and more attentive audiences of signal receivers. This study highlights the importance of integrating responses of both signal senders and receivers to understand more fully the success of animal-communication systems.

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