Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The economic behavior of bees

I find it fascinating that there is also plenty of Economics in the animal kingdom. Two recent papers about bees just caught my attention.

Antoine Champetier studies the interaction of bees and farmers, as bees play an important role in pollination and are thought to be subject to a mysterious decline in numbers. He takes California almonds as an example and builds a model of pollination supply with hive owners and bees that forage. One aspect appears to be rather important: economies of scale in the hive, as larger hives have an easier time regulating the temperature and can devote more time to more aggressive foraging. Champetier formulates a spatial model of foraging and coordination in the bee colony, where energy used and gained by foraging is assessed, as well as time costs in each step of pollen acquisition and storage.

Noam Bar-Shai, Tamar Keasar and Avi Shmida study what makes that a bee departs early or stays longer in a flower patch. Looking at videos, they concluded that bees cannot count, but are rather governed by clues left by odor marks (to prevent revisiting the same flowers) and current foraging success.

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