Can bees color maps better than ants?

Mar 10, 2011

In mathematics, you need at most only four different colors to produce a map in which no two adjacent regions have the same color. Utah and Arizona are considered adjacent, but Utah and New Mexico, which only share a point, are not. The four-color theorem proves this conjecture for generic maps of countries, but actually of more use in solving scheduling problems, scheduling, register allocation in computing and frequency assignment in mobile communications and broadcasting.

Researchers in Algeria are taking inspiration from nature to help them devise an automated way to solve the map-coloring problem by looking at how so-called "swarm intelligence" of the kind observed in might assist. Writing in the appropriately named International Journal of Bio-Inspired Computation, Malika Bessedik of the LMCS in Alger and her colleagues explain how bees could be much better than ants at map coloring.

Modeling the behavior of , such as bees and ants has led researchers in many diverse areas of investigation to develop algorithms based on the behavior to help them solve problems in communication networks and robotics. Models of behavior leading to artificial intelligence systems have been particularly successful in these areas, while honey bee-based algorithms have been applied to engineering optimization problems.

The researchers explain that, honey bees are social insects that live in highly organized colonies with one or several queens and numerous drones, workers and broods. The queens specialize mating with drones and laying eggs which are tended and cared for by the female workers. A mathematical model of this system known as "Marriage in honey bees optimization" (MBO) was developed in the early 2000s to help solve so-called combinatorial optimization problems, such as the traveling salesman problem of logistics and the minimum spanning tree problem for reducing the amount of resources and materials used in engineering, such as laying pipelines or fiber optic to fully connect a network. It mimics the genetic selection process in bees in which the queen mates with many drones and then randomly fertilizes her eggs with sperm from each male to generate a mixed pool of offspring among which only the fittest will thrive.

Bessedik and colleagues reasoned that that fact that MBO uses self-organization, unlike ant colony models, would allow it to solve one of the most complex problems - map coloring. The term map coloring belies the actual applications of the process because it is not used to color geographic maps but rather in solving engineering and mathematical problems. The team has now developed a new algorithm based on MBO that uses less computational power than other related algorithms.

Explore further: Multidisciplinary study reveals big story of cultural migration (w/ Video)

More information: "How can bees colour graphs?" in Int. J. Bio-Inspired Computation, 2011, 3, 67-76

Related Stories

Wood ant queen has no egg-laying monopoly

Jun 28, 2007

The reproductive monopoly of the ant queen is not as strong as is often thought. Dr. Heikki Helanterä and Prof. Lotta Sundström, biologists working at the University of Helsinki, Finland, investigated worker ovary development ...

Why do some queen bees eat their worker bee's eggs?

Dec 04, 2006

Worker bees, wasps, and ants are often considered neuter. But in many species they are females with ovaries, who although unable to mate, can lay unfertilized eggs which turn into males if reared. For some ...

Halictid bees' social behavior studied

Mar 13, 2006

Cornell University scientists say the social behavior of many species of sweat bees evolved simultaneously during a period of global warming.

Recommended for you

Shrinking dinosaurs evolved into flying birds (w/ Video)

2 hours ago

A new study involving scientists from the University of Southampton has revealed how massive, meat-eating, ground-dwelling dinosaurs evolved into agile flying birds: they just kept shrinking and shrinking, ...

Congressional rift over environment influences public

6 hours ago

American citizens are increasingly divided over the issue of environmental protection and seem to be taking their cue primarily from Congress, finds new research led by a Michigan State University scholar.

Rural loss and ruin can be avoided

8 hours ago

An Australian Reconstruction Development Board needs to be established to help avoid more needless forcing of Australian farmers from their land, a QUT economist has said.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Shabs42
not rated yet Mar 10, 2011
With only four colors, how would you handle Uzbekistan, which shares extended borders with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan?
FrankHerbert
1 / 5 (1) Mar 10, 2011
Uzbekistan, Yellow
Kazakhstan, Red
Kyrgyzstan, Blue
Tajikistan, Green
Afghanistan, Red
Turkmenistan, Green