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Human Workers Can Learn From Ants And Bees

How bees, wasps, and ants think, and how that heightens their work efficiency is the focus of a discussion Monday at Carnegie Science Center at 7 p.m.

“The Wisdom Of The Bee: How To Organize A Team When No One Knows What She Is Doing” will show how these swarm insects have one of the most successful workforces on the planet, despite every single worker not knowing all of the information required to normally make a decision.

Discussion leader John Wenzel, the director of the Powdermill Nature Reserve said these insects are so efficient because they operate on swarm intelligence, a task process wherein each individual within a colony completes a piece of a larger puzzle.

“As an example, if a honey bee colony is really hungry and you show up with food, it’s going to be really easy for you to find someone to take the food,” Wenzel said. “On the other hand, if a honey bee colony is full of food and other jobs need to be done, when you show up with food, no one will need it, because [the colony] is well fed.”

A common belief about these swarm creatures is that one insect, usually a queen, makes every decision. Wenzel said that's a misconception, that swarm intelligence is actually an autonomous process.

“There is no boss,” Wenzel said. “Every individual ant or bee or wasp makes up her own mind on what she’s going to do.”

Wenzel said humans could learn a lot about operating efficiency from these insects.

“To decrease argument and discord when [the insects] disagree, of course and they disagree about things is that they limit themselves to lobbying for their own interests for a only few minutes and then they quit arguing, because an argument that goes on forever is useless,” Wenzel said.