Division of Labor and Decentralization
The division of labor is one of the important accomplishments of insect colonies.For honeybees, this division of labor depends on the particular preference of each age group to be engaged in specific tasks. An obvious example is the task of the “foragers”, which is carried out by old bees, but this is true for basically any specific task in the honeybee colony. Their system, in which each age group is assigned its task, is highly flexible. A honeybee colony deprived of all its young bees will have some of its old bees carrying out the tasks of young bees; this is made possible by older bees that develop nourishing glands or wax glands if needed. This also works the other way around when all older bees are gone; young bees will soon take on the foraging tasks. The amount of work that arises in a colony and the amount of labor that is activated to go about this work is so well balanced that some questions certainly arise: How can a bee know “what kind of” and “how much” work has to be done “when” and “where”? Who gives the instructions and who makes sure that these instructions are followed? Superorganisms do not have a hierarchical structure. It is more similar to a heterarchy. The collective behavior is decentralized. Each one of the bees makes its own decisions or, more correctly, it acts as if it had decided for itself. The consequences of such a decision result in small and local changes within the colony. These small changes in turn stimulate other bees, which then adapt to new reduced micro situations and again arrive at their own decisions. With these micro situations occurring, a macro behavior emerges as a visible result. The behavior in swarming, comb construction and the use of comb space and exploration of the nest surroundings are examples of such macro behavior of the superorganism.
Würzberg's HOBOS Project at the European Teaching Festival
Christoph Bauer knows exactly what students can learn from honeybees. This biology and chemistry teacher has been using HOneyBee...