Mergers, twists, and pentagons: the architecture of honeycombs

Mergers, twists, and pentagons: the architecture of honeycombs

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Bees manage some impressive feats. They not only remember the location of good food sources, but they're able to communicate this information to their peers. They also care for the hive's young and organize attacks against intruders.

They're brilliant at construction, too. Almost every honeycomb in a hive is a perfect hexagon, with each side the same length. This is despite the fact that bees have to build hexagons of different sizes for workers and drones, and they often merge honeycombs started on opposite walls of the hive. How do they manage these complexities?

A new paper uses an automated image-analysis system to identify the different ways that bees manage these transitions. The researchers who made the system find that bees see issues coming in advance and start making smaller adjustments that, in the end, help avoid the need for larger changes.

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