Reproduction by colony fission, or swarming, is a spectacular example of a behavior that requires the simultaneous coordination of the activities of thousands of honey bee workers and their queen. The successful execution of this collective phenomenon relies on the appropriate response of individuals in swarms to a myriad of signals that are produced by workers and queens to synchronize their nest exodus, subsequent house hunting, and eventual relocation to a new nest site. In this review, we describe our current understanding of the social factors that trigger swarming in colonies and the nonchemical and chemical signals that mediate a coordinated transition between its stages. We also highlight emerging work on the physiological and genomic mechanisms underpinning swarming behavior. Finally, we discuss the possible evolutionary origins of swarming behavior, through comparisons with related behaviors of migration, overwintering, estivation, and diapause in honey bees and other insects.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Insect Science