The trade-off between exploiting known resources and exploring for new ones is a complex decision-making challenge, particularly when resource patches are variable in quality and heterogeneously distributed in the landscape. Social insect colonies navigate this challenge, in the absence of centralized control, by allocating different individuals to exploration or exploitation based on variation in individual behaviour. To investigate how heritable differences in individual learning affect a colony's collective ability to locate and choose among different quality food resources, we develop an agent-based model and test its predictions empirically using two genetic lines of honey bees (Apis mellifera), selected for differences in their learning behaviour. We show that colonies containing individuals that are better at learning to ignore unrewarding stimuli are worse at collectively choosing the highest-quality resource. This work highlights how differences in individual behaviour may have unexpected consequences for the emergence of collective behaviour.
- collective behaviour
- exploration–exploitation trade-off
- honey bee
- latent inhibition
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology