The Dancing Bees

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When we think of honey¬† bees, the first thing that comes to our minds is their nasty sting. Honey bees are a subset of bees in the genus Apis. From the images above, we can see the bees flying around colourful flowers, extracting sweet nectar from them. But these creatures’ bites are far from sweet, they sting like hell!!! However, what most people don’t know is that these unattractive creatures have an artistic talent in them. They can dance!! Well it is not an actual dance, but a scientist named Karl von Frisch coined the term “Waggle Dance” to describe the way their bodies move. But what is the purpose of this dance?

Have you ever wondered how when one bee finds a food source, other bees appear at the feeding station shortly after? This shows that the bees have some kind of communication going on. Honey bees use the waggle dance to provide information about distant feeding stations to the other bees. The waggle dance shows the other bees the direction and distance to fly to find food sources.

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As you can see from this diagram, the bee follows a figure 8 and waggles on the middle line of the figure 8. If the bee waggles straight up the comb, it is telling the other bees to fly towards the sun in order to find the flowers. A straight-down dance conveys to the other bees to fly directly away from the sun. Even the tempo of the dance conveys a meaning. The faster the waggle, the closer the distance of the feeding station.

This video will provide a better illustration of the waggle dance:

honey bees waggle dance

However, later experiments done showed that the waggle dance was not sufficient to aid other bees in finding the food sources. Other factors plays a part as well. Without the use of odour and visual cues in the final stages of their flight, most bees were unable to locate the food source with only the help of the waggle dance. Well this is how these creatures get their food. But as long as they waggle away from us, we are safe!!!

References:

Frisch, Karl von. 1993. The dance language and orientation of bees. Harvard Univ Press.

Riley, J. R., Greggers, U., Smith, A. D., Reynolds, D. R., & Menzel, R. (2005, May 12). The flight paths of honeybees recruited by the waggle dance. Nature Vol 435 , pp. 205-207.

“Honey bee waggle dance”- backyardbugs. Youtube Channel, 27 September 2007. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nga4Z_HRUsU&feature=related\ (accessed on 5 April 2010)

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