My research uses ideas and methods from physics, biology, and computer science to investigate the collective dynamics of honeybee interactions.
- Collective Food Exchange/Distribution among Honeybees
Division of labor, a hallmark of honeybee behavior, allows the assignment of different tasks to different individuals to improve efficiency of the colony as a whole. An acute instance of a division of labor occurs as part of their feeding process, where some forager bees collect food and share via food regurgitation, essentially “charging” hivemates who do not have access to nearby energy sources. This process, termed trophallaxis, allows fast and efficient dissemination of nutrients and is crucial for the colony’s survival. 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. In particular, think about a scenario where a bee just flies back to hive from a foraging trip and there are many mouth to feed! She faces this dilemma: should it feed another hivemate at the same spot on the honeycomb or move to feed another at a new place? This decision making process that occurs as a result of food-exchange behavior causes a dramatic shift in the morphology of the collection of bees. Based on our series of laboratory experiments with fed/deprived honeybees we now know that initially, the individuals are distributed sparsely across the arena. After the fed bees are introduced, clusters appear. Eventually, the clusters dissipate.
The main goal of this research is to discover the connections between the individual honeybee behavior and the collective food exchange dynamics that it produces within the hive. Furthermore, as social insects have always been a reliable source of inspiration for the design of artificial multi-agent systems, optimization algorithms, and robotics, I hope that as this research grows, our results can inspire useful solutions to problems in those fields.
2. Collective Honeycomb Construction under Geometric Frustrations
This the latest project that I started about a year and a half ago. I will write more about it soon!
If any of these topics sound interesting to you or if you have any thoughts or ideas in similar research or just want to chat, I’d love to schedule a time and talk with you. So, either shoot me an email, or message me on one of the social media links below.