Honey bees, Apis mellifera, that leave their natal colony with a reproductive swarm are known to establish a new nest within the foraging range of the natal colony. Experiments with natural swarms confirmed that bees rapidly learn to return to their new hive following colony fission, even if the natal hive stands a short distance away. Experiments with artificial swarms demonstrated similar reorientation by bees and further showed that the experience of being in a swarm triggers patterns of behaviour apparently used in reorientation. In addition, bees remembered information about the natal nest even after they moved to a new nest: Reoriented bees from artificial swarms deprived of their new hive returned to their natal hive rather than to another equidistantly located hive. These results demonstrate a high degree of plasticity in honey bee spatial memory; experienced foragers returning to their new nest apparently can adopt new responses to landmarks that were previously used to guide them to their natal nest, while still retaining the ability to locate their natal nest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-320
Number of pages10
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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