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Application of Artificial Bee Colony Algorithm to Software Testing

Surender Singh Dahiya

Department of CE,
National Institute of Technology,
Kurukshetra (INDIA)

Jitender Kumar Chhabra
Department of CE,
National Institute of Technology,
Kurukshetra (INDIA)

Shakti Kumar
Director, CI Lab
ISTK, Kalawad,

Abstract- This paper presents an artificial bee colony based
novel search technique for automatic generation of
structural software tests. Test cases are symbolically
generated by measuring fitness of individuals with the help
of branch distance based objective function. Evaluation of
the test generator was performed using ten real world
programs. Some of these programs had large ranges for
input variables. Results show that the new technique is a
reasonable alternative for test data generation, but doesnt
perform very well for large inputs and where constraints
are having many equality constraints.

Keywords- Automatic test data generation; Artificial Bee
Colony Algorithm; Swarm intelligence; Symbolic testing;
Soft computing; Search Algorithm.
Test data generation is the central activity in software
testing. Besides saving precious development cost,
automation in test data generation is also targeted to
generate unbiased, effective and efficient test data. The
highly non-linear structure of software presents a
challenge to search algorithms for finding optimal and
efficient test data from a complex, discontinuous, non-
linear input search space. For such environments, search
algorithms must have both types of search capabilities;
local as well as global. Several computational
intelligence based search algorithms such as genetic
algorithms, simulated annealing and tabu search have
been used in the past for fulfilling the requirement of
software testing and to improve the quality of
automation for test data generation [6, 19].
This paper presents an Artificial Bee Colony (ABC)
based search algorithm to generate test data using
symbolic execution method. For experimentation
purposes ten real world programs are taken. The
organization of this paper is as follows. Section 2 of this
paper describes various search techniques used for test
data generation. Section 3 represents software testing as
a search based problem. Section 4 explains the general
principles of ABC and its application to test data
generation problem. Section 5 presents the experimental
setup and its results, which is followed by conclusion in
section 6.
In test data generation activities, the primary
objective of search algorithms is to find the set of input
data from input-domains, which can reveal the most
faults in the software. Several types of traditional search
techniques such as random testing [8, 9], mutational
testing [10] and algorithmic search approaches [13, 14,
21] have been applied by researchers but these are
restricted by their excessively slow search capability.
Their performance also deteriorates significantly for
large and complex programs and especially where input
domain size is large [23].
The most successful search algorithm class is based
on metaheuristic techniques such as Genetic Algorithms
(GA), Simulated Annealing (SA), tabu search, Ant
Colony Optimization (ACO) and Particle Swarm
Optimization (PSO) etc. Xanthakis [25] applied GA for
automatic test case generation. Pargas et al [24]
proposed a GA based testing technique where the
number of executed control dependent nodes of the
target node decides the fitness of solutions population.
Wagener et al [1] logarithmized objective functions to
provide better guidance for its GA based test data
generator. Watkins [22] and Ropar [26] used coverage
based criteria for assessing the fitness of individuals in
their GA based test generator. Lin and Yeh [15] used
hamming distance based metric in objective functions of
their GA program to identify the similarity and distance
between the actual path and the already selected target
path for traversal in dynamic testing. Michal et al [20]
have used GA based testing methods for covering all the
conditions on a path for c and c++ programs.
Tracey [16] constructed a SA based test data
generator for safety critical systems by using a hybrid
objective function, which includes two concepts; branch
distance and number of executed control-dependent-
nodes. Diaz et al [5] developed a tabu search based test
data generator, which maintains a search list also called
tabu list. It uses neighbourhood information and
backtracking for solving local optima. Ayari et al [11]
proposed an ACO based approach to generate test data in
the context of mutation testing. This ACO based
approach is enhanced by a probability density estimation
21st Australian Software Engineering Conference
1530-0803/10 $25.00 2010 IEEE
DOI 10.1109/ASWEC.2010.30
technique in order to provide better guidance to the
search for continuous input parameters.
Windisch et al [2] have reported the application of
PSO method for test data generation for dynamic testing.
Authors in [9] proposed another PSO based algorithm
for automatic test case generation activity using
symbolic testing. The approach has been validated and
compared with GA and was found to be a promising
alternate for test case generation.
Another recent search algorithm in swarm
intelligence category is Artificial Bee Colony (ABC)
algorithm, which simulates the honey bees working
towards food foraging and nectar gathering system
optimization. Although this technique has been
successfully employed on scores of engineering
applications such as internet server allocation [29],
pattern recognition [30] , job scheduling [12], data
clustering [31] etc. Its applicability in testing domain is
still unexplored.
Both functional and structural testing criteria can be
employed for generation of test data. In structural
testing, these criteria can be anything from all-statements
execution to all-paths coverage [7]. An all-paths
coverage criterion is concerned with execution of all
feasible paths by the generated test data sets. In path
testing, each feasible path is selected from control flow
graph (CFG) of the program and then test inputs are
generated in such a way that on executing program with
these, it covers all the branches in that path. In other
words, to cover a particular branch, the condition(s) at
branch node must be satisfied by the test data, which
direct control flow of program to that particular branch.
A path may contain several branches and in order to
execute that path, all these branch-conditions must be
evaluated to true by the test data. Consequently, the
problem of path testing can be formulated simply as a
condition or constraint satisfaction problem, which
should be analyzed and solved with the help of some
search method by generating inputs in such a way so that
it can satisfy all of the path constraints. This analysis can
be dynamic as well as static. In dynamic analysis, the
program is actually executed with the values of input
variables and then objective function determines the
extent up to which it has satisfied the testing criterion,
which becomes the fitness of the set of values (also
called test case). On the other hand, static analysis does
not require the actual execution of program, but it
symbolically executes a testing path as identified from
CFG of program. A valid test case is generated, which
should execute the particular path by satisfying all of the
boolean expression included in that path. Concatenation
of all such expressions involved in that path is then done
to generate a composite predicate. Internal variables are
converted in terms of basic inputs and subsequently
replaced in constraints system during the process of
concatenation as it may affect the subsequent execution
criterion of the remaining path.
From above discussion, the test data generation
problem can be thought as an application of some search
algorithm to determining the values of input variables in
the program from the input space to satisfy some given
criteria. Even a moderate program may have very large
input space and generating test cases from such a large
input space, meets the criteria to be an NP-hard [27] or
NP-complete [17] problem and hence it becomes a
perfect case for employing good search and optimization
Figure1. Block diagram of automatic test data generator for symbolic
path testing.

Figure 1 shows the different building blocks of a
path based automatic test data generator for symbolic
testing. First, test object source code is fed to program
instrumentation for CFG and node expressions
generation. Subsequently, the CFG is used to generate all
possible paths which are filtered manually for feasible
paths in order to become input to the constraint system
generator. Finally, constraint system particular to each
feasible path is solved by a search algorithm by taking
inputs from input domains, which become valid test data
A. Search algorithm
The ABC algorithm is biologically inspired technique
of swarm intelligence for searching [10]. It is all about
honey bees work distribution and collective foraging
strategy to accumulate extra nectar for their survival in
winter season. Seeley [4] investigated the behavior of
bees in distributing their work to optimize the collection
of nectar. Instead of initiating exploration by all bees,
some dedicated explorer bees (scout bees) are appointed
to explore the profitability of flower patches in the
surrounding environment. This profitability accounts
various parameters such as amount of nectar in flower
patches, sugar content in nectar, distance of flower
patches from the bee hive etc. If an explorer bee satisfies
itself that there is sufficient profitability then it recruits
unloader for unloading the nectar it has collected during
exploration and dances (known as waggle dance) on
dance floor (a designated place in beehive) to give
feedback to foragers (observer or onlookers bees, which
actually collect nectar from patches) about the quality of
the flower patch, which they have recently searched out.
The dance strength and its inclination with Sun
determine the distance and the direction of the
designated flower patch from beehive. The working of
the honeybee colony is reported as robust and adaptive
by [3]. This motivates us to use this for path testing
approach. Figure 2 gives the pseudo code for honey bee

1. Initialize the random population of solutions X
(flower patch
2. Evaluate the population
3. Produce new solutions
in the neighborhood of X
for the
employed bees by using following equation.

= X
- (X
is a random number between 0 to 1 and X
is a
randomly selected solution.
4. Apply the greedy selection process between
and X
5. Calculate the probability values p

for the solutions X

means of their fitness values,

6. Produce new solutions (new positions) for the onlookers
from the solutions X

depending on probability p

evaluate them.
7. Apply the greedy selection process between the new and old
8. Determine the abandoned solution (source), if exists, and
replace it with a new randomly produced solution for the
9. Memorize the best food source position (solution) achieved
so far
10. Repeat step 3 to 9 until the termination criterion is reached
Figure 2. Artificial Bee Colony algorithm

For test data generation, initially a random population
of candidate solutions is generated from the inputs
domains. In ABC the solutions are represented by the
position of flower patches. The optimum positions of
flower patches are searched out in such a way so that
positions of these can satisfy the targeted path constraint
system. Corresponding to each flower patch, its
profitability is measured. In computer modeling, this
profitability is represented by the fitness of the position.
The ABC algorithm works in three phases. First phase is
called the employed phase, where employed bees modify
the position of elite flower patches (where profitability is
higher) in neighborhood. The second phase is executed
by onlookers, who modify their patches positions with
influence from elite positions. These positions are known
as selected patches. After every phase a greedy selection
process is repeated, where solutions (flower patch
positions) compete themselves for retention in the elite
or selected patches based on their fitness. In this process
some of the sources may migrate from one category to
another or some may be abandoned in favor of randomly
generated sources, which are simulated by the scout
phase of the algorithm. Subsequently, these search
processes of the employed, onlooker, and scout phases
are repeated in cycles until the termination criterion is
met. The ABC algorithm doesnt have much flexibility
in tuning its parameters for the best results other than the
size of colony and number of bees allocation for the
elite patches. For test case generation, we have taken
size of colony as 30 where half of these work as
employed bees for elite patches.
B. Fitness Function

For path testing criterion, in order to traverse a
feasible path, the control must satisfy the entire branch
predicates, which falls on that particular path. In our
experimentations, we have used a symbolic execution
technique of static structural testing. So, corresponding
to each path a compound predicate (CP) is made by
anding each branch predicate of the path. The CP must
be evaluated to true by a candidate solution in turn to
become a valid test case. The ABC generates population
of candidate solutions and these are used to evaluate the
CP. If the CP is not evaluated to true by an individual
then all the constraints of particular path are split into
distinct predicates (DP) and one by one each DP is
evaluated by taking values of its operands from
candidate solutions. A DP contains only one operator (a
constraint with modulus operator is the exception) and
can be expressed in the form of expression A op B where
A and B are LHS and RHS of an expression which is
made of one or more operand(s) and op is a relational
operator. For determining the fitness of candidate
solution following rule is followed. If the DP is satisfied
then no penalty is imposed on the candidate solution,
otherwise the candidate solution is penalized on the basis
of branch distance concept rules as shown in table 1,
which is also recommended by Watkins et al [18] for
static structural testing.

Table1. Branch Predicate based Fitness function

After this, integrated fitness due to whole of CP is
determined by adding penalty values of two DPs, if they
Violated distinct
Penalty to be imposed in case predicate
is not satisfied
A < B A B+
A > B B A+
A = B Abs(A B)
A B abs(A B)
A and B are operands and is a smallest constant of operands
universal domains. In case integer it is 1 and in case real values it
can be 0.1 or 0.01 depending on the accuracy we need in solution.
are connected by a conditional and operator. If two
DPs are connected by a conditional or operator then
the minimum penalty of two DPs is considered for the
evaluation of whole CP fitness. If the integrated fitness is
zero then the CP is called evaluated or satisfied by the
individual, whose values are replaced in the CP and the
search process for particular path is terminated otherwise
search is allowed to proceed further.
In order to prove the worthiness of the ABC method
for test data generation, we have experimented on ten
real world problems. The aim of the experiment was to
generate test cases automatically from the corresponding
CFG using the standard ABC algorithm. The CFG of
programs are automatically constructed from respective
source code and all feasible paths are identified
manually. The fitness function corresponding to the
target path is constructed using the concept of symbolic
testing and path constraint system, which has been
already described in section 4.2 of this paper. The ABC
algorithm is implemented using the MATLAB
programming environment. The performance of the
algorithms is measured using Average Test Cases
generated Per Path (ATCPP) and Average Percentage
Coverage (APC) metrics. The high value of ATCPP
signifies the difficulty faced by the search method for
test data generation. Experiment is conducted 10 times
for averaging results. In each attempt, ABC is iterated
for 100 generations for each of the 10 runs. In each run,
except for the first run, the first-generation population is
seeded with the best solution from the previous run. This
is done to check premature convergence of population.
The total number of real encoded individuals in each
population is 30. If a solution is not found within all runs
that generates total 30,000 invalid test cases then it is
declared that the test case generation has failed for that
particular attempt. This value has been obtained by
multiplying total number of runs, generations and
number of individual in each population. An invalid test
case is a solution, which does not qualify to become a
test case.
We have chosen 10 real world programs for test data
generation activity. Some of these are frequently used by
researchers. These are called test objects here and brief
explanation for each test object is given below.

Triangle classifier (TC) is one of the most used
programs for experimentation of test data generation.
It accepts three inputs as sides of a triangle and then
decides whether these sides form a triangle and if yes,
then of what type. This program contains total 7
feasible paths of which four involves equality
Line-rectangle classifier (LRC) program identifies
whether a line cuts a rectangle or lies completely
outside or lies completely inside of the rectangle. In
this program, eight inputs are entered; four for co-
ordinates of the rectangle and four inputs to define the
line. Some of the nodes in CFG of this program have
very high level of nesting. This is the main reason of
using this program so that the difficulty of testing a
nested structure can be found.
Number of days between two dates program(DBTD)
accepts six integer input variables representing two
dates. Input ranges for first date year and second date
year are between 2000 and 2100. This program
contains plenty of branches with equality conditions;
some of them use the remainder operator, which adds
discontinuity to the decision domains and therefore the
tester may face a greater difficulty in finding the test
cases that cover those branches. The nesting level is
very high for some of the nodes. These characteristics
make this program an ideal one to evaluate the
effectiveness and efficiency of automatic test
generator for the path coverage criterion. This program
also contains several loops. We have converted loops
in case statements in such a way so that each condition
within the loop is executed at least once by test cases
and it covers each statement in the loop.
Program a2f (A2F) converts a numeric string into
real value. The main reason of taking this program is
its complexity and the nested structure it has, making
compound constraint in symbolic testing more
complex and harder to be satisfied. It inputs an array
of numeric characters. The input domain for each
position in array is 0 to 127 which represents
characters in the ASCII table. This program has 15
decision nodes. The highest nesting level is seven
which is rare in most real world programs. This
program contains a few equality conditions branches
also. This program also contains several loops. We
have allowed loops to execute utmost thrice thereby
limiting the explosion of number of paths but side by
side enough chance is given for the execution of every
statement in loop and traversing its effect in future
execution of loop.
Binary search (BS) accepts a variable size array of
maximum 80 elements. The loop in the program is
allowed to execute 5 times at most.
Remainder (REM) finds the remainder of two integer
numbers. It also contains 4 loops which are again
restricted for 5 executions only.
Bubble sort (BUB) arrange an array in ascending
order. It accepts a variable size array. This program is
unique in the sense that it is the only program in this
set of programs, where nested loops structure is
Quadratic equation program(QUAD) finds the roots of
a quadratic equation. This program also tests equation
for linearity or infeasibility.
Min-max program (MINMAX) finds minimum and
maximum value from an array. In this program loop is
again allowed to execute 5 times utmost.
Isprime (ISPRIME) tests an integer for its primeness.
This is the simplest program in the list.

Detail characteristics of these test objects are given in
table 2.

TABLE2. Test Objects characteristics

Table 3 presents the results of testing effort on 10
testing objects selected for experimentation. Test cases
for TC and LRC programs are generated from inputs by
taking small as well as large domain of size 10
and 10

respectively for each path. ABC is able to generate test
cases for all paths except in cases of TC (small as well as
large domain), LRC (large domain) and BS program.
This shows the inapplicability of ABC for large domains
of inputs. It also fails to generate test data for TC (small
domain) frequently for a path in which it has to prove
triangle as equilateral. Thereby, we can also conclude
that search algorithm performance is affected by the
number of equality constraints the target path involving.
Other than these, the binary search is the only program
for which ABC fails to generate test cases. This may be
due to requirement of inputting variable array to satisfy
the boundary cases. Although we have taken a fixed size
array of size 80 but its size is varied by taking an
external variable n during experimentation. We have
used the same approach for A2F and BUB programs but
in these, boundary cases are not required to be satisfied.

TABLE 3. ATCPP and APC for Test Objects
Name of Program ATCPP APC
TC (small Domain) 6197 85.71
TC (Large Domain) 17156 42.86
LRC (small Domain) 1255 100
LRC (Large Domain) 3924 89.06
DBTD 206 100
A2F 3195 100
BS 15545 51.94
REM 970 100
BUB 258 100
QUAD 1930 100
MINMAX 619 100
ISPRIME 52 100
We have proposed a swarm intelligence based
approach for structural software testing. Experiments are
performed on ten real world problems. Static testing
based symbolic execution method has been used in
which first, the target path is selected from the CFG of
program and then inputs are generated using the ABC
method to satisfy composite predicate corresponding to
the target path. The technique has performed
satisfactorily for most of the program except programs
with large input domains and many equality based path
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