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.

Social networks predict the life and death of honey bees.

Nature Communications 12, 1110 (2021).

PDF Cite DOI View

Adrian Zachariae
Adrian Zachariae
PhD Student

My research interests are dangerously widespread and include evolutionary dynamics, human mobility and honey bee social networks.

Prof. Dr. Dirk Brockmann
Prof. Dr. Dirk Brockmann

Head of Research on Complex Systems Group