Amazon Bumble Bees Exhibit Traits of Ants, Researchers Find : SCIENCE FILE / An exploration of issues and trends affecting science, medicine and the environment

From Times staff and wire reports

Bumble bees in the Amazon fly through the air to collect food, like bees anywhere, but they are more like ants when they collect nest material, gathering it along trails on the forest floor, according to scientists from the University of Arkansas. The team reported in Nature that they watched a colony of bees make paths up to 6.5 feet long on either side of their nest, the first such behavior seen in bees.

The paths ended in a dense mat of fallen leaves, where the bees poked around for nest material. Having found what they wanted, some flew back to the nest, but others preferred the walk. "The use of trails enables the colony to encompass a wider and more rapidly defended home range, and facilitates the efficient collection of nest-building materials."

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