Task Allocation and Site Fidelity Jointly Influence Foraging Regulation in Honeybee Colonies
Variation in behaviour among group members often impacts collective outcomes. Individuals may vary both in the task that they perform and in the persistence with which they perform each task. Although both the distribution of individuals among tasks and differences among individuals in behavioural persistence can each impact collective behaviour, we do not know if and how they jointly affect collective outcomes. Here, we use a detailed computational model to examine the joint impact of colony-level distribution among tasks and behavioural persistence of individuals, specifically their fidelity to particular resource sites, on the collective trade-off between exploring for new resources and exploiting familiar ones. We developed an agent-based model of foraging honeybees, parametrized by data from five colonies, in which we simulated scouts, who search the environment for new resources, and individuals who are recruited by the scouts to the newly found resources, i.e. recruits. We varied the persistence of returning to a particular food source of both scouts and recruits and found that, for each value of persistence, there is a different optimal ratio of scouts to recruits that maximizes resource collection by the colony. Furthermore, changes to the persistence of scouts induced opposite effects from changes to the persistence of recruits on the collective foraging of the colony. The proportion of scouts that resulted in the most resources collected by the colony decreased as the persistence of recruits increased. However, this optimal proportion of scouts increased as the persistence of scouts increased. Thus, behavioural persistence and task participation can interact to impact a colony's collective behaviour in orthogonal directions. Our work provides new insights and generates new hypotheses into how variations in behaviour at both the individual and colony levels jointly impact the trade-off between exploring for new resources and exploiting familiar ones.