Just published: Social networks predict the life and death of honey bees
In complex societies, individuals’ roles are reflected by interactions with other conspecifics. Honey bees (Apis mellifera) generally change tasks as they age, but developmental trajectories of individuals can vary drastically due to physiological and environmental factors. We introduce a succinct descriptor of an individual’s social network that can be obtained without interfering with the colony. This ‘network age’ accurately predicts task allocation, survival, activity patterns, and future behavior. We analyze developmental trajectories of multiple cohorts of individuals in a natural setting and identify distinct developmental pathways and critical life changes. Our findings suggest a high stability in task allocation on an individual level. We show that our method is versatile and can extract different properties from social networks, opening up a broad range of future studies. Our approach highlights the relationship of social interactions and individual traits, and provides a scalable technique for understanding how complex social systems function.