Behaviour 2019
Beyond response thresholds - the role of probability and intensity in social communication in honey bees
Ebi George1, Ann-Kathrin Broeger2, Markus Thamm2, Supraja Rajagopal3, Ricarda Scheiner2, Axel Brockmann1. 1National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, Karnataka, India; 2University of Wuerzburg, Wuerzburg, Bavaria, Germany; 3University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, United States

The success of eusocial insect societies is based on division of labour, wherein related individuals perform different tasks necessary for the survival and growth of their colony. This division of labour has been linked to variation in response thresholds amongst individuals. We use the honey bee recruitment communication, the waggle dance, as an experimental paradigm to explore the role of two other response parameters, probability and intensity, in driving inter-individual variation in behavioural responses. We find that both individual probability and intensity of dancing was consistent over days. Interestingly, social interactions modulated probability more than intensity. In contrast, intensity correlated with the individual’s gustatory response threshold, while probability did not. Thus, group level responses are modulated via changes in response probability whereas response intensity is reflective of the individual’s behavioural state in the context of the honey bee waggle dance communication. Our study highlights the need to study the feedback between social interactions and these response parameters for a comprehensive understanding of how eusocial societies function.