Copy-when-uncertain: bumblebees rely on social information when rewards are highly variable


To understand the relative benefits of social and personal information use in foraging decisions, we developed an agent-based model of social learning that predicts social information should be more adaptive where resources are highly variable and personal information where resources vary little. We tested our predictions with bumblebees and found that foragers relied more on social information when resources were variable than when they were not. We then investigated whether socially salient cues are used prefer- entially over non-social ones in variable environments. Although bees clearly used social cues in highly variable environments, under the same conditions they did not use non-social cues. These results suggest that bumblebees use a ‘copy-when-uncertain’ strategy.

Biology Letters