Bumblebees learn foraging routes through exploitation-exploration cycles

Kembro, Jackelyn M.Lihoreau, MathieuGarriga, Joan Raposo. E. P.Bartumeus, Frederic . Interface 16: 20190103 (2019)  DIGITAL CSIC

How animals explore and acquire knowledge from the environment is a key question in movement ecology. For pollinators that feed on multiple small replenishing nectar resources, the challenge is to learn efficient foraging routes while dynamically acquiring spatial information about new resource locations. Here, we use the behavioural mapping t-Stochastic Neighbouring Embedding algorithm and Shannon entropy to statistically analyse previously published sampling patterns of bumblebees feeding on artificial flowers in the field. We showthat bumblebeesmodulate foraging excursions into distinctive behavioural strategies, characterizing the trade-off dynamics between (i) visiting and exploiting flowers close to the nest, (ii) searching for new routes and resources, and (iii) exploiting learned flower visitation sequences. Experienced bees combine these behavioural strategies even after they find an optimal route minimizing travel distances between flowers. This behavioural variability may help balancing energycosts–benefits and facilitate rapidadaptationto changing environments and the integration of more profitable resources in their routes.