Imagine you're a bee and you just located a prime nectar source. You want to alert your hivemates, but not attract competitors. What should you do?
Some bees devise a special "whisper" to discretely let bees in their colony know about a food source, but others, new research has shown, "shout" it out loud with a message along the lines of, "This is good nectar and it's all ours or -- watch out!"
In the case of bees, the insects aren't actually shouting, but signalling to each other and outside bees using information-rich pheromone trails.
Photos: Faces of Bees, Flies and Friends
"It tells nestmates where to find good food and hints at a larger occupying force," explained Elinor Lichtenberg in a press release. Lichtenberg, a postdoctoral researcher at Washington State University, focused on species of singless Brazilian bees for her paper in the journal Current Biology.
The finding, she says, demonstrates how eavesdropping competitors can alter the evolution of animal signals -- even in unexpected ways.