The purpose of this paper is to investigate how a viable system, the honey bee swarm, gathers meaningful information about potential new nest sites in its problematic environment.
This investigation uses a cybernetic model of a self-organising information network to analyse the findings from the last 60 years published research on swarm behaviour.
Nest site scouts used a modified foraging network to carry out a very thorough survey of the swarm’s problematic environment, providing the swarm with a considerable diversity of potential nest sites for consideration. The swarm utilised a number of randomly recruited groups of scouts to obtain numerous independent opinions about potential nest sites, each privately evaluated, publicly reported and repeatedly tested by new recruits. Independent evaluation of site quality was balanced by interdependent reporting of site location. Noise was reduced by integration over a large number of individual scouts and over a period of time. The swarm was therefore able to reduce potential sources of bias, distortion and noise, providing it with comparatively reliable information for decision making.
Information gathering by a honey bee swarm has not previously been modelled as a self-organising information network. The findings may be of value to human decision-making groups.
Richard Foss wishes to thank Professor Raul Espejo for helpful advice during the course of this study.
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