A model of spatial sorting in animal groups, with an application to honeybee swarm movement

Alistair Merrifield, Mary Myerscough and Neville Weber


A self-organising model of group formation (in three dimensional space) based on simple rules of avoidance, attraction and alignment is used to examine the spatial dynamics of animal groups. We discuss the different types of behaviour resulting from this model due to changes in these rules. In particular, the phenomenon of honeybee swarms migrating to a new nesting site is examined. The vast majority of the migrating swarm is uninformed as to the particular location of their new home. A small number of bees (in the swarm) have prior knowledge of the new location and guide the rest of the swarm to the new site. The model investigates a hypothesis of how this guidance procedure occurs. We conclude from the results of the model that one possible way for this process to occur is for the knowledgeable bees to guide the other members of the swarm with spatial cues.

Keywords: Self-organisation, spherical probability distribution, swarming behaviour, randomisation tests, Apis mellifera.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2004