Bees communicate with each other, particularly regarding the location and quality of food sources, through a fascinating behavior known as the “bee dance” or “waggle dance.” This dance is performed by worker bees within the hive, and it provides information to other bees about the direction and distance to a food source. Here’s how bees communicate through dance:
- Foraging: When a foraging bee discovers a new and valuable food source, such as a patch of flowers or a nectar-rich area, it returns to the hive with the intention of recruiting other bees to the location.
- Dance Floor: Inside the hive, the returning forager performs the bee dance on a specially designated area called the “dance floor.” The dance floor is a horizontal surface where other worker bees can gather and observe the dance.
- Orientation and Direction: The bee dancer moves in a figure-eight pattern while waggling its abdomen. The orientation and angle of the dance in relation to gravity convey information about the direction of the food source in relation to the position of the sun. For example, the angle and duration of the waggle portion of the dance indicate the angle and distance from the sun.
- Distance: The duration of the waggle portion of the dance also conveys information about the distance to the food source. Bees interpret the duration of the waggle as a measure of distance, with longer waggle durations indicating greater distances.
- Odor and Sampling: As the dancing bee waggles, it may release pheromones or scents that help other bees identify and remember the specific odor associated with the food source. Other bees may sample the food scent directly from the dancer’s body to reinforce the communication and identify the scent more precisely.
- Learning and Recruitment: Worker bees that observe the dance process the information provided by the dancer. They can learn and remember the dance’s characteristics, such as the direction and distance to the food source. The recruited bees can then leave the hive, navigate to the food source, and assess its quality for themselves.
By performing the waggle dance, bees effectively communicate the location, direction, and distance of valuable food sources to other members of the colony. This intricate communication system allows for efficient exploitation of resources and coordination among honeybees.