A lesson in efficiency from bees

A lesson in efficiency from bees

Trapline foraging

Honey bees

If you were a salesperson, the most challenging part of the job is to find the shortest route to places without visiting any of them twice. But, did you know many birds, animals and even insects like bees solve a similar problem in their daily lives while searching for food?

Bees use a strategy called ‘trapline foraging’ to obtain nutrition from flowers, where they visit a series of feeding resources in a sequence. Hence, they need to make the right decision on the best route to be taken, which involves optimising their travel time, the time spent at each food resource, and the total distance travelled. They are also known to change their routes in response to environmental changes like the availability or quality of food. Thus, they tend to visit flowers with the most nectar first, and still, take the shortest route possible.

Scientists believe that they can do this complicated calculation either by creating a ‘map’ of the position of flowers in their mind or by remembering different landmarks along the route, like a row of bushes.