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Eating locally: dance decoding demonstrates that urban honey bees in Brighton, UK, forage mainly in the surrounding urban area

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 20:20 authored by Mihail Garbuzov, Roger Schürch, Francis Ratnieks
Urbanization is increasing worldwide. Urban habitats often support considerable biodiversity and so are of conservation value, even though they are highly modified ecosystems. Urban parks and gardens are rich in flowers that provide food for pollinators, including bees. Here, we use waggle dance decoding to investigate foraging by 3 honey bee hives located in the city of Brighton, UK, over almost an entire foraging season, April to October. Waggle dances were recorded using video cameras and decoded during framewise playback on a computer by measuring the angle and duration of the waggle phase. Foraging was mostly local (mean monthly distances 0.5–1.2 km) and mostly within the surrounding urban area (monthly means 78–92 %) versus the countryside (closest distance 2.2 km) even though this was well within the honey bee maximum foraging range (c. 12 km). These distances were lower than those from a previous study for hives located in a rural area 4.5 km away. Honey bees are very sensitive to foraging economics and foragers make waggle dances only after visiting high-quality feeding locations. Low distances advertised by dances, therefore, indicate sufficient forage nearby and show that urban areas can support honey bees year round. As a corollary, however, urban bees may provide little pollination service to agriculture especially in spring, which had the lowest foraging distances and is when the most economically important animal-pollinated UK crops, apple and oilseed rape, are in bloom.


Publication status

  • Published


Urban Ecosystems




Springer Verlag

Department affiliated with

  • Evolution, Behaviour and Environment Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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