Honey Bee Dance Language
Bees visit millions of flowers collecting nectar and pollen. One of the most amazing honey bee facts is the way they communicate the location of food sources. The honey bee dance language allows bees to share information and become efficient foragers.
Have you ever seen a honey bee dance? Honey bee dances…really? Yes, that’s a fact, honey bees do actually dance – but it might be a little different from what you expect.
You won’t see them doing the twist or boogie woogie but they have some rather impressive moves of their own.
Honey bee dances have been a source of fascination for beekeepers and insect scientists for many years.
Early bee researchers noticed some of the bees doing strange movements on the honeycomb inside the hive.
The bees were doing this for a reason but early beekeepers had no idea what it meant.
Meaning of Bee Dancing is Revealed
In the early 1900’s, Austrian researcher Karl Von Frisch studied sensory perceptions of honey bees.
His work proved that the repetitive dance moves of bees in the hive had meaning. The honey bee dance was a means of communication regarding the location of food sources.
Von Frisch published his findings in his book “The Dancing Bees“ . He received a Nobel Prize in 1973 for his work with honey bee dances.
Communication Enhances Survival
The ultimate goal of the honey bee colony is survival. As a social organism, the colony relies on teamwork and communication to procure needed resources.
Without a good supply of food, a bee colony has no hope of growth or sustainability. Many people think that bees collect honey but they do not.
Worker bees fly from the hive to collect nectar. Nectar is a sweet liquid with a high water content produced by many blooming plants.
Bees inside the hive transform the nectar into honey. Less prone to spoilage, honey is a great food for the bees during the cold winter months.
Each season – A time will come when there will be no blooms and no nectar available to collect. The bee colony must store enough food to survive until Spring blossoms.
Efficient nectar gathering is essential to the survival of a honey bee colony.
Much time and energy would be wasted if each bee had to find a great food source on their own. The honey bee colony needs a good way to communicate prime foraging locations.
They may not have cell phones, Ipads or email but they have a communication method that has been working well for millions of years.
Bee Dance Moves
When a worker finds a great food source, she will return to the hive with nectar. The worker bee will dance and share samples of the nectar with others.
Is it more amazing that the dancer is communicating in this way, or that the watcher is able to interpret the meaning?
Honey Bee Waggle Dance
The most well known of the honey bee dances is the “waggle dance“. It is fun to say and even funnier to watch in the hive.
Bees performing the waggle dance are communicating the direction and approximate distance to a food source.
The waggle dance is used to direct worker bees to food sources that are more than 100 meters away from the hive.
The more attractive the food source – the more excited the dance moves.
Honey Bee Round Dance
Nectar producing flowers near the hive will result in a “circle or round dance”. The round dance does not tell the bees which direction to fly.
It simply alerts the bees to food that is not far away. The dancer will share nectar samples to interested observers.
Because the food source is close to the hive (within 20 meters), the bees will use their sense of smell and vision to look for the sweet blossoms.
More workers are enticed to seek out the nectar source because of the dance. They too may return to the hive and dance.
A good nectar source will impress many foraging bees. A large number of bees dancing for the same prime food location is common.
When the blooms of a particular type start to dwindle, the bees will switch to a more attractive source.
Again, they will “hit the dance floor” to show their love for the new nectar source.
How do Bees Dance?
The honey bee is quite agile even when she is not on the dance floor. There is so much we don’t know about this wonderful insect.
A study from Chinese researchers has given us a better understanding of the mechanics of honeybee movement.
The inter-segmental membrane (the membrane that connects the plates on the bee’s back and belly) was studied.
The membrane along the bee’s back is thicker than the one along its belly. This allows the bees to curl their abdomen but they can not do back-bends.
This data may seem unimportant to the average bee enthusiast but showcases how much more we have to learn about the honey bee.