A simple iterative model accurately captures complex trapline formation by bumblebees across spatial scales and flower arrangements.
e1002938 - ?
PLoS Comput Biol
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Pollinating bees develop foraging circuits (traplines) to visit multiple flowers in a manner that minimizes overall travel distance, a task analogous to the travelling salesman problem. We report on an in-depth exploration of an iterative improvement heuristic model of bumblebee traplining previously found to accurately replicate the establishment of stable routes by bees between flowers distributed over several hectares. The critical test for a model is its predictive power for empirical data for which the model has not been specifically developed, and here the model is shown to be consistent with observations from different research groups made at several spatial scales and using multiple configurations of flowers. We refine the model to account for the spatial search strategy of bees exploring their environment, and test several previously unexplored predictions. We find that the model predicts accurately 1) the increasing propensity of bees to optimize their foraging routes with increasing spatial scale; 2) that bees cannot establish stable optimal traplines for all spatial configurations of rewarding flowers; 3) the observed trade-off between travel distance and prioritization of high-reward sites (with a slight modification of the model); 4) the temporal pattern with which bees acquire approximate solutions to travelling salesman-like problems over several dozen foraging bouts; 5) the instability of visitation schedules in some spatial configurations of flowers; 6) the observation that in some flower arrays, bees' visitation schedules are highly individually different; 7) the searching behaviour that leads to efficient location of flowers and routes between them. Our model constitutes a robust theoretical platform to generate novel hypotheses and refine our understanding about how small-brained insects develop a representation of space and use it to navigate in complex and dynamic environments.
AuthorsReynolds, AM; Lihoreau, M; Chittka, L
- Psychology