Collective mechanical adaptation of honeybee swarms

September 26, 2018

Bee clusters on a tree branch. Credit: Jacob Peters, Orit Peleg/Harvard University

If it’s a bad idea to kick a hornet’s nest, it’s certainly a bad idea to shake a bee swarm. Unless, of course, it’s for science.

A team of Harvard University researchers spent months shaking and rattling swarms of thousands of honey bees to better understand how bees collectively collaborate to stabilize structures in the presence of external loads.

The research is published in Nature Physics.

“Our study shows how living systems harness physics to solve complex problems on scales much larger than the individual,” said L. Mahadevan, [...] senior author of the study.  “We demonstrated that bees can harness the physicality of the environment solve a global mechanical stability problem by using local  sensing and action...”

Continue reading "Shaking the swarm" by Leah Burrows, https://www.seas.harvard.edu/content/shaking-swarm. Also read the Letter in Nature Physics: O. Peleg, J.M. Peters, M.K. Salcedo & L. Mahadevan, "Collective mechanical adaptation of honeybee swarms," Nature Physics (2018) doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41567-018-0262-1.