Social insect colonies solve problems: like any animal, they have to collect food, find shelter, compete, reproduce, and so on. Unlike many animals, they typically solve these problems as a group, and the group-level behavior is self-organized, meaning it emerges from actions and interactions of many individuals, rather than being driven or organized by a single leader or hierarchy.
Here we describe what we have found in terms of which problems are solved, what distributed strategies are used to solve them, and what we know about why particular strategies are used, i.e. the benefits and costs of different organizational or collective problem-solving strategies under particular conditions.
Search: in the works
Communication (mostly in foraging): how and why do individuals communicate in order to solve the problem of collecting a spatially and temporally varying set of resources.
Task allocation: how and why do individuals choose their role in the colony, e.g. their particular work-task (such as brood care or defense), and how does this lead to colony-level efficiency and robustness. This problem, in general form, is similar to the problem of allocating any kind of resource (here workers, but could be energy or something else) across a diverse set of sites (spatial sites, or tasks, or functions).
Collective decision-making: in the works