Monday, April 13, 2009

Honey Bees Can Dance

Honey bees have an elaborate system of communication. Since they live in a permanent nest and fly out to find and gather food, water, and necessary hive materials from miles around, they must be able to determine directions and share the information with other bees in their colony. For example, once a scout bee has located a source of nectar, she must be able to tell other bees in her hive the direction and distance to the flowers producing the nectar. She does this by doing a waggle dance on the surface of the honey comb in the hive. She performs a dance in which she waggles her body rapidly while moving in a circular pattern interrupted by a straight line down the center of the circle. The angle of this straight line compared to vertical in the hive is equivalent to the direction toward the flower in relation to the angle of the sun as the bee flies out the front door. The time interval between straight-line passes in the dance conveys to the other bees the distance to the flower. Wow, what a concept for insects!

While the scout bee is performing her waggle dance, she stops periodically and shares some of the nectar that she gathered with the bees observing her dance. By sharing the nectar, she lets these bees know the scent of the flowers that they will be looking for. Click on the picture to enlarge it. You can see the scout bee in the center waggling rapidly as she makes the vertical straight-line pass of her dance indicating that the nectar source is in the direction of straight out the front door of the hive toward the sun. I am amazed at what the bees do. It is quite a sight to see in the bee hive.

1 comment:

  1. Richard,

    I LOVE this blog. It is so informative and fascinating! I really do want to set up some hives of my own. This spring was out because I foolishly (?) signed up for a marathon that is in two weeks, so my Saturdays have been filled with running.
    But next spring is my year! I'm finding a location and setting up a couple of hives.

    Until then, I'll get my bee fix by reading your blog! The waggle dance is amazing.

    Nick Livers