How Honeybees Break a Decision-Making Deadlock

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Science  06 Jan 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6064, pp. 43-44
DOI: 10.1126/science.1216563

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For a honeybee swarm of potentially thousands of individuals, choosing a home is a momentous decision. Failing to choose a single location may cause the swarm to split and the queen to be lost (1); choosing poorly may limit the swarm's growth or expose it to freezing temperatures during the winter (2). Studies over the past 60 years have shown that honeybee swarms use quorum sensing, a form of decentralized decision-making, to choose a suitable nest site, but many gaps remain in our understanding of this process. On page 108 in this issue, Seeley et al. (3) show that an inhibitory signal between bees advocating different locations allows them to make a decision even when potential nest sites are equally favorable.