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: Mathematical model tackles 'Game of Thrones' predictions

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

And now the Acropolis is crumbling...

10 hours ago

Just when Greece thought it had come through the worst of the crisis it was hit by a new blow Wednesday—the Acropolis is crumbling.

Power can corrupt even the honest

17 hours ago

When appointing a new leader, selectors base their choice on several factors and typically look for leaders with desirable characteristics such as honesty and trustworthiness. However once leaders are in power, can we trust ...

Learning at 10 degrees north

17 hours ago

Secluded beaches, calypso music and the entertaining carnival are often what come to mind when thinking of the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. But Dal Earth Sciences students might first consider Trinidad's ...

How to find the knowns and unknowns in any research

19 hours ago

Have you ever felt overloaded by information? Ever wondered how to make sense of claims and counter-claims about a topic? With so much information out there on many different issues, how is a person new to ...

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