Honey bee communication and collective decision-making

Are you interested in the project below? Awesome! PLEASE DO NOT APPLY THROUGH THE URO SITE. Instead, follow this link [https://forms.gle/hrbnmY5Dz9ZoW1bj8] to send in your application by Feb. 20th.

Honey bees are social insects with tens of thousands of bees per colony that have evolved amazing strategies to collectively solve problems. For example, they have a unique communication signal called a waggle dance that allows them to communicate the direction/distance to a rewarding resource. Scientists can "eavesdrop" on these conversations between bees and map the locations that dancing bees advertise. Previous work has shown that honey bees are more likely to perform a waggle dance if the nectar source that they visited was more profitable (greater ratio of energy gained to energy spent per foraging trip), which allows a colony of honey bees to focus its foraging efforts on the best resources. However, we do not know whether honey bee foragers also assess the size of a flower patch (and thus how many other bees could also exploit it) when deciding whether and how persistently to recruit their sister foragers. To test whether and how flower patch size affects the communication behavior of real honey bee foragers, we will perform experiments at the Bernard Field Station this summer. We will video record honey bee colonies housed in glass-walled observation hives in order to map their waggle dance communications (see related project: Using computer vision to eavesdrop on honey bee communications). This project will involve marking individual honey bees and training them to visit an array of artificial flowers (that we are designing/building this spring) so that we can test the effects of different distributions of artificial flowers on honey bee recruitment behavior (probability of dancing, number of repeated signals, etc.). Work on this project will also include maintaining healthy research colonies and collecting pollen from colonies for analysis.

Name of research group, project, or lab
Bee Lab
Why join this research group or lab?

The HMC Bee Lab is an interdisciplinary group that includes students from Biology, CS, Math, Engineering, and other fields studying a wide variety of questions about collective decision-making in both bees and ants. In this lab you will develop new skills and get a sense of many different kinds of research and approaches to answering questions. You could also potentially continue your work in a senior thesis project, present at regional or national conferences, and/or co-author a publication.

Logistics Information:
Project categories
Environmental Science
Student ranks applicable
Student qualifications

A strong interest in understanding the natural world

Willingness to work outside in varying temperatures

Willingness to work with honey bees

Time commitment
Summer - Full Time
Paid Research
Number of openings
Techniques learned

For this project:

  • study design and data analysis
  • field work techniques (behavioral observations, animal training, etc.)
  • animal care experience (beekeeping skills)
  • lab skills: microscopy (depending on time/student interest)

All Bee Lab research students will learn to read and discuss scientific literature, and to communicate across disciplinary boundaries and with the public about their work.

Contact Information:
Mentor name
Morgan Carr-Markell
Mentor email
Mentor position
Postdoctoral Fellow
Name of project director or principal investigator
Morgan Carr-Markell, Matina Donaldson-Matasci
Email address of project director or principal investigator
1 sp. | 0 appl.
Hours per week
Summer - Full Time
Project categories
Environmental Science (+1)
BiologyEnvironmental Science