My research uses ideas and methods from complex systems, computational modeling and physics to investigate the collective dynamics of honeybee interactions. My current focus is on the mutual feeding technique that supports the honeybees’ social evolution, which is called trophallaxis: the direct transfer of liquid food among nestmates. This behavior is not only an important feeding mechanism but also serves as a means for communication among hivemates, allowing them to distribute information about the quality of the new nectar sources or about food requirements of the brood nest. It is considered to be one of the most central features of eusociality in honeybees and is integral to their survival and growth as a colony. It amazes me how a group of bees manage to coordinate the complex task of food distribution with such high levels of efficiency and ensure the feeding of non-foragers and brood within the hive. Furthermore, social insects have always been a reliable source of inspiration for the design of artificial multi-agent systems, optimization algorithms, and robotics. They are evolutionarily optimized, balancing many simultaneous constraints, and proven to be robust against failures of the individuals. These are critical challenges in swarm robotics, and I hope that the results from my research can develop useful solutions to problems in that field.
In case you are wondering where we keep the bees, here’s a cool picture of our bee yard from last summer.