This won’t be any surprise to beekeepers or people who know anything about bees:
About 20 percent of the worker bees do most of the foraging. And when these foraging bees need to be replaced, other workers step into those roles.
This short video (1:32) from the New York Times makes that point and shows how scientists at the University of Illinois are tracking this social mobility behavior.
While it is sometimes useful to relate the behavior of bees to that of human beings, those comparisons may, in fact, limit our ability to understand what bees are really like.
Bees are insects. They are, as Jim Tew reminded us in August, wild animals. While we think of them as domesticated because we keep them in hives we build, that’s really not what they are.
Bees have a social system, one that works superbly well. The worker bees are equipped to do a variety of jobs inside and outside the hive, and they do those jobs as they see fit.
But to refer to them as “socially mobile” may be taking the bees-to-humans references a little too far.
Key words: social mobility of bees, beehives, social system of bees, worker bees, foraging, Jim Tew, Ohio State University, Alabama Cooperative Extension, jobs of the worker bees, University of Illinois, research on bees