Student work
Artificial life
Court of the honeybee queen

Please note

The simulation needs a Java-Plugin (1.3.x) installed for your internet browser. If you do not already have one installed, the browser will prompt you to download the Plugin from “Sun”, who is the inventor of Java. Please download the JRE (=Java runtime environment) into a directory on your computer (e.g. “c:\temp”), execute the downloaded file for installation on your system (double-click on the file). Afterwards you will be able to reload the simulation page. Maybe you will have to restart your browser to succeed.

Run the simulation

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Description of the simulation

This simulation demonstrates a model that is assumed to explain the emergence of the queen’s court in a honeybee colony. Several worker bees move towards the queen, surround her heading directly towards the queen. After some time, the bees loose again contact to the queen and move around, obviously without being influenced by her. After some time, they are again attracted by the queen and approach her directly.

The overall size of the court is stable within a certain range of 5 to 15 working bees.

The model presented here uses the following assumptions:

1.) The queen represents a pheromone template by producing a volatile pheromone.

2.) This pheromone is spread throughout the surrounding air, this way establishing a pheromone gradient.

3.) The reach of this pheromone is limited within a certain (local) area around the queen.

4.) Each working bee has the ability to perceive the pheromone, if the concentration is above a reception-threshold.

5.) After perceiving the pheromone, the bee directly walks uphill in the pheromone gradient (positive chemotaxis).

6.) Each time-step of positive chemotaxis, the threshold level is raised, each time step without chemo-taxis, the threshold is lowered. (habituation or adaptation).
Please note, we do not directly distinguish between the two possible reasons of this effect here:
a.) the pheromone doesn’t get perceived anymore
b.) the pheromone is still perceived, but doesn’t cause chemotactic behavior


  • The slider number-of-bees regulates the number of simulated worker bees
  • The slider releasing-rate regulates the queen’s pheromone release rate
  • The sliders diffusion-rate and destruction-rate regulates the spreading gradient of the pheromone
  • The sliders Puturn-queen and Puturn-bee regulate the probabilities of spontaneous turns in the random walks of the queen and of the worker bees.
  • The sliders Pgo-queen and Pgo-bee regulate the probability of bees and queen to start and stop movement spontaneously.
  • The sliders speed-queen and speed-bee regulate the movement speeds of the queen.
  • The slider min-sensitivity regulates the minimum sensitivity of the bees
  • The switch habituate turns the habituation-process on and off
  • The switch chemotaxis turns the chemotaxis on and of


  • The plot thresholds shows the current levels of the thresholds of all bees.
  • The plot size of court shows the time dynamics of the queen’s court size.


  • Test the effect of the pheromon-gradient properties in combination with different queen speeds.
  • What is the ultimate effect of the habituation process?
  • What is the ultimate effect of the chemotaxis behavior?



The presented NetLogo simulation was written by:
Thomas Schmickl (2002), Department for Zoology, Karl-Franzens-University Graz, Austria, Europe,,

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