Real democracy: how honey bees choose a home

Thomas Seeley
Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University

(June 17, 2008 5:30 PM - 6:30 PM)

Real democracy: how honey bees choose a home

Abstract

Real democracy - when citizens meet in a face-to-face assembly and bind themselves under decisions they make themselves - has been practiced for some 2500 years by humans, but for more than 20 million years by honey bees. We will examine the remarkable democratic decision-making process of a honey bee swarm as it chooses a new home. We will see that bees have evolved sophisticated ways of working together to identify a dozen or more potential dwelling places, to choose the highest quality one for their new home site, and to make a decision without undue delay. We will conclude with some take-home lessons from the bees ("swarm smarts") on how to foster good decision making by democratic groups of humans.