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Past experiences affect interaction patterns among foragers and hive-mates in honeybees
Social insect colonies face the challenge of adjusting the behavior of individuals performing various tasks to a changing environment. It has been shown in several species that characteristics of interaction patterns between nestmates provide social information that allows individuals to adjust their behavior in adaptive ways. A well-studied example is the modulation of recruitment by dancing in honeybees (Apis mellifera) in response to the time, the foragers have to search for unloading partners and the number of unloading bees. Here we tested if experiences that hive bees acquired during past social interactions affect interactions with the incoming foragers. Bees returning with food containing a floral scent that was familiar to the hive bees from previous interactions had more food receivers during unloading and more followers during dancing displays compared with foragers returning with food containing a novel scent or unscented food. We also confirm that the number of receivers during food unloading is positively related to the motivation to dance immediately after unloading. Our results show that prior social experiences affect the ways in which individuals interact in the context of honeybee nectar collection and, therefore, how learning in hive bees contributes to the organization of this collective task.
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