Central-place foragers exploiting floral resources often use multi-destination routes (traplines) to maximise their foraging efficiency. Recent studies on bumblebees have showed how solitary foragers can learn traplines, minimising travel costs between multiple replenishing feeding locations. Here we demonstrate a similar routing strategy in the honeybee (Apis mellifera), a major pollinator known to recruit nestmates to discovered food resources. Individual honeybees trained to collect sucrose solution from four artificial flowers arranged within 10 m of the hive location developed repeatable visitation sequences both in the laboratory and in the field. A 10-fold increase of between-flower distances considerably intensified this routing behaviour, with bees establishing more stable and more efficient routes at larger spatial scales. In these advanced social insects, trapline foraging may complement cooperative foraging for exploiting food resources near the hive (where dance recruitment is not used) or when resources are not large enough to sustain multiple foragers at once.
The authors declare no competing or financial interests.
M.L. designed the experiments. A.B. collected the data. A.B. and M.L. analysed the data. A.B. and M.L. wrote the manuscript.
This research was funded by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), and grants from Fondation Fyssen and IDEX of the Université de Toulouse (Starting and Emergence programmes) to M.L.
Supplementary information available online at http://jeb.biologists.org/lookup/doi/10.1242/jeb.143214.supplemental
- Received May 13, 2016.
- Accepted June 9, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd