Bumblebees Making Security Trade-Offs

I have long been enamored with security trade-offs in the natural world:

A 3D video tracking system revealed that although the bees became very accurate at detecting the camouflaged spiders—they also became increasingly wary.

“When they come in to inspect flowers, they spend a little bit longer hovering in front of them when they know a camouflaged spider is present,” said Dr Ings.

With this “trade-off”, the bees may lose valuable foraging time—but they reduce the risk of becoming the crab spider’s next meal.

Posted on September 8, 2008 at 12:52 PM7 Comments


Dave X September 8, 2008 1:27 PM

The movie doesn’t look informative: It looks like the bees do exactly the same thing each of the 4 times. Is it a mistake?

It is sort of fun to see the bee-catching robot pinchers nab the bees.

Ken Williams September 8, 2008 1:58 PM

That’s gotta be the same clip played 4 times, the sound of the bee is exactly the same each time. I think someone messed up editing it.

Davi Ottenheimer September 8, 2008 11:39 PM

Yes, in a similar way I noticed that wolves prefer fishing to hunting.


This data makes me wonder if some who fear the impact of wolves on hunting should reconsider their support for companies that pollute waterways and cause a reduction in fish stocks.

Perhaps instead of shooting wolves from planes the government could just better protect fish supplies.

William Edwards September 9, 2008 4:56 AM

The article finishes by speculating that the crab spider’s use of so much energy to change colour is a poor tradeoff because the bees aren’t fooled.

But maybe the crab spiders in the wild have a much higher success rate than the robots in the test? After all, these are bees that are conditioned by numerous near-misses, which might not reflect the reality out in the bush?

Whats interesting to me is that the bees started to avoid the flowers entirely the next day. But the first day they instead inspect the flowers? But still land anyway?

Hmm, it doesn’t quite add up consistantly.

Stuart Little September 9, 2008 10:43 AM

“Scientists wanted to know if bumblebees adapt their foraging behaviour after encountering a crab spider.”

I’m glad the scientists are putting their extensive education, talents, and finances to such a noble cause.

Anonymous September 9, 2008 2:29 PM

Now I understand the reasoning behind the saying, ‘sweet Bee jesus’
Dang spider, I forgot about you.

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