Implications of variation in worker body size for the honey bee recruitment system

Keith D. Waddington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Honey bee scouts seek food from flowers, return to the colony, and may perform a dance used to recruit dance followers to the flowers. Variation in body size of workers may result in the communication of misinformation because some information acquired by the scout and signaled to recruits is affected by body size. I tested two predictions of this hypothesis. (1) Recruitment communication takes place between bees of similar size despite the withincolony size distribution. (2) There is an inverse relationship between the size variation of foraging honey bees (Apis mellifera)and the rate at which nectar is returned to the colony. A positive relationship was found between the size of a dancer and that of its dance followers, which together comprise a dance group. There was less variation in size within dance groups than among groups. These two factors effectively lower the difference in size between signal sender and signal receiver and may enhance the flow of accurate size-dependent information. Also, an inverse relationship between size variation and rate of nectar intake was detected in each of six colonies using partial correlation analysis. This may be due to communication of misinformation when size variance is higher. The relationship was statistically significant in two colonies and the combined results were significant. The results of the first study suggest the generally weak relationships found in this second study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-103
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Insect Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989


  • Apis mellifera
  • body-size variance
  • colony food intake
  • dance groups
  • foraging behavior
  • honey bee
  • recruitment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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