How Regulation Based on a Common Stomach Leads to Economic Optimization of Honeybee Foraging

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Simple regulatory mechanisms based on the idea of the saturable 'common stomach' can control the regulation of protein foraging and protein allocation in honeybee colonies and colony-level responses to environmental changes. To study the economic benefits of pollen and nectar foraging strategies of honeybees to both plants and honeybees under different environmental conditions, a model was developed and analyzed. Reallocation of the foraging workforce according to the quality and availability of resources (an 'adaptive' strategy used by honeybees) is not only a successful strategy for the bees but also for plants, because intensified pollen foraging after rain periods (when nectar quality is low) compensates a major fraction of the pollination flights lost during the rain. The 'adaptive' strategy performed better than the'fixed' (steady, minimalistic, and non-adaptive foraging without feedback) or the 'proactive' (stockpiling in anticipation of rain) strategies in brood survival and or in nectar/sugar economics. The time pattern of rain periods has profound effect on the supply-and-demand of proteins. A tropical rain pattern leads to a shortage of the influx of pollen and nectar, but it has a less profound impact on brood mortality than a typical continental rainfall pattern. Allocating more bees for pollen foraging has a detrimental effect on the nectar stores, therefore while saving larvae from starvation the 'proactive' strategy could fail to collect enough nectar for surviving winter.