Honey bees, Apis, forage for nectar and pollen,
which are subsequently stored in cells of their nests. Despite
the importance of honey storage for colony survival, very
little is known about decision making by honey bee workers
that could optimise the transformation of nectar into honey.
Here we test, using diagnostic radioentomology, whether
workers use rules based on sugar concentration to optimise
the spatial distribution of storage cells during nectar ripening.
The data show that after the first 3 days of storing
activity, various sugar concentrations were mixed in individual
cells. A spatial clustering of cells with content of
similar concentration was only occasionally observed. The
results, therefore, suggest that at early stages of storage,
spatial proximity of cells with similar sugar concentrations
does not result in improved efficiency and, therefore, does
not seem adaptive. The costs involved in locating particular
cells probably outweighs the benefits of clustering. Alternatively,
but not mutually exclusive, physiological constraints (e.g. variation in the perception of sugar concentration)
might limit such optimisation behaviour. Storing
behaviour can serve as a model to better understand food
provisioning and complex organisation of insect societies.