Follow my waggle!

Apis mellifera

Do you find yourself losing your way even after carefully following the given directions? Or, do you often provide directions to others? Find communicating words too troublesome? Maybe next time you can try the honey bee’s waggle dance!

YouTube- Bee waggle dance

Apis mellifera, a species of honey bee are most often located as a colony¬† in hives that are constructed and stored with honey. They are easily one of the most hardworking animal considering to fill half a kilo of the combs with honey, it requires nectar from 4 million flowers! With finding nectar as their main concern, think about it, to get to the best nectar, it would be more efficient if the bees actually share and spread the location of the “good stuff”, right? Well, being good team players, that is exactly what they do, and they do it in their own way- the waggle dance.

The process of the waggle dance follows as such

1. Foraging bee returns to hive

2. Allow other bees to taste the nectar so as to share the quality

3.  Start waggle dance by doing a figure of eight followed by shaking of body in the centre

4. Off it goes again to collect more nectar

Despite the inconsistency in the duration of the dance, according to Kirchner and Grasser(1997), the “dances contain correlates of distance and direction to the food source”(p. 169). What is interesting is that the communication of direction is made according to the position of the sun. However, the sun is constantly moving but more often than not, research has shown that the following bees are able to accurately find the food source. Hence it seems that the dancing bee has made prior changes to the direction before conveying!

However, there are contradictory arguments that disregard the assertion that the waggle dance serves as the sole communication tool in directing the bees to the food source. Other factors such as “olfactory cues” (Kirchner and Grasser, 1997, 170) and even sounds are seen as important. It is made more complicated by the need to consider the effect of habitats. However, despite these interlocking of factors, the waggle dance is still seen as important in at least communicating the presence of food nearby and also to increase the intensity of food hunting.

So next time you see a bee hive, maybe you could try observing and you never know, it might just lead you to good source of nectar!

  • “Bee Waggle dance,” WGBHstocksales. Youtube channel, 14 Oct 2009. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jc-mtUs-eis
  • Kirchner, Wolfgang H. & Grasser, Andreas, 1998. The Significance of Odor Cues and Dance Language Information for the Food Search Behavior of Honeybees (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Journal of Insect Behavior, 11(2): 169- 178.
  • “Overloaded honey bee,” F. Roberto. Flickr, 27 March 2008. URL:http://www.flickr.com/photos/robfon/2358526180/