John M. Townsend-Mehler

Department of Zoology


Ecology, Evolutionary Biology & Behavior Program


Specialization in Cognitive Science



Comparing Foraging Strategies in Honey bees and Bumble bees

Iím curious about variation between species in terms of foraging strategies.  The main focus for my research has been looking at patch departure decisions and persistence at a past profitable food source.  Iím particularly interested in how social factors (such as recruitment mechanisms and colony size) influence the foraging decisions of individuals.† Iím also interested specifically in how the ability to communicate with nestmates and indicate the location of novel food sources (as with honeybees and the waggle dance), shapes individual foraging decisions such as the tendency to shift from exploitation to exploration.

Negative Incentive Contrast Effects

Some of my work focuses on exploring the possible adaptive value of negative incentive contrast effects (the disruption in feeding behavior following the experience of a downshift in reward).† It is a behavioral phenomenon that is very thoroughly researched in the psychology literature, yet is poorly understood in functional terms.

Body-size polymorphism in Bumble Bees

Bumblebee workers vary a great deal in terms of body size, but itís not well understood what, if any, advantage is conferred as a result of this variation.† Some of my research has focused on examining behavioral variation that exists among individual foragers and looking for possible correlates with body size.


Our outdoor flight cage

Indoor bumblebee flight cage

Honeybees at feeder