Observing animals is what I have always enjoyed doing most.
I knew that I wanted to study animal behavior early on, and from birds to mammals I made my way to the social insects, which I have been investigating for the past years.
My favorite thing still is sitting in wonder as I carefully and patiently observe; and then translating what I see into questions that can be addressed in the laboratory.
SOCIAL INSECT SOCIETIES.
FROM INDIVIDUAL RESPONSES TO COLLECTIVE PATTERNS (AND BACK)
Response decisions: How do individuals in insect societies respond to their ever changing, heterogeneous environment?
Behavioral flexibility: How are individual responses modulated; e.g. by experience (adult and ontogenetic), age, perception of own efficiency, nutritional state and social interactions?
Inter-individual variability: How and why do individuals differ in their responses, and what is the contribution of these inter-individual differences to the properties of their collective?
How is the state of the collective reflected in the various feedback loops integrating individual response decisions?
Bee decline: How do widely used agrochemicals impact individual and collective thermoregulation behavior and collective fitness?
bumblebee worker fanning on brood
worker fanning on brood dummy
worker incubating on brood dummy
mimicking natural brood (pupae)
test arenas with temperature controlled brood dummies
thermal images of workers on brood dummies
types to manipulate cooling efficiency
collective Temperature Homeostasis
We use collective thermoregulation in bumble bees to address the questions outlined above.
Bumblebee colonies maintain their brood at high and stable temperatures. Individuals actively generate heat and incubate the brood. When temperatures are too high, individuals fan their wings and cool the brood.
Temperature homeostasis is a collective phenomenon, with individuals switching in and out of the task of thermoregulation.
In the lab, we are able to control and manipulate the stimulus (temperature) in order to study both individual and collective responses in detail.
thermal image of a split colony for within-colony comparisons
observing multiple group setups under red light
group setup with several brood dummies -
testing stimulus response behavior in a social context
Weidenmüller A, Chen R, Meyer B (2019) Reconsidering response threshold models -- Short-term response patterns in thermoregulating bumblebees, Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology, 73:112
Garrison LK, Kleineidam C, Weidenmüller A (2018) Behavioral flexibility promotes collective consistency in a social insect, Scientific Reports, 8: 1-11
Meyer B, Weidenmüller A, Chen R, Garcia J (2015) Collective homeostasis and time resolved models of self-organised task allocation. In BICT 2015 – 9th EAI Int. Conf. on Bio-inspired Information and Communications Technologies, New York City, NY, December 2015.
Jeanson R, Weidenmüller A (2014) Interindividual variability in social insects – proximate causes and ultimate consequences. Annual Reviews of Biology 3: 671-687
Westhus C, Roces F, Kleineidam C, Weidenmüller A (2013) Behavioural plasticity in the fanning response of bumblebee workers: impact of experience and rate of temperature change. Animal Behaviour 85: 27-34
Weidenmüller A, Mayr C, Kleineidam CJ, Roces F (2009) Preimaginal and adult experience modulates the thermal response behavior of ants. Current Biology 19, 1897-1902
Weidenmüller A (2004) The control of nest climate in bumble bee colonies. Interindividual variability and self-reinforcement in response thresholds. Behavioral Ecology 15: 120-128
Weidenmüller A, Kleineidam C, Tautz J (2002) Collective control of nest climate in bumble bee colonies. Animal Behavior 63: 1065-1071
Spaethe J, Weidenmüller A (2002) Size variation and foraging rate in bumblebees (Bombus terrestris). Insectes Sociaux 49: 142-146
Weidenmüller A, Tautz J (2002) In-hive behavior of pollen foragers in honey bee colonies under conditions of high and low pollen need. Ethology 108: 205-221
Weidenmüller A (2001) From individual behavior to collective structure. Pollen collection and nest climate control in social bees. Ph.D. thesis, University of Würzburg
Weidenmüller A, Seeley TD (1999) Imprecision in waggle dances of the honeybee (Apis mellifera) for nearby food sources: error or adaptation? Behav Ecol Sociobiol 46: 190-199
Seeley TD, Weidenmüller A, Kühnholz S (1998) The shaking signal of the honey bee informs workers to prepare for greater activity. Ethology 104: 10-26
Seeley TD, Kühnholz S, Weidenmüller A (1996) The honey bee’s tremble dance stimulates additional bees to function as nectar receivers. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 39: 419-427
Pratt SC, Kühnholz S, Seeley TD, Weidenmüller A (1996) Worker piping associated with foraging in undisturbed queenright colonies of honey bees. Apidologie 27: 13