How Do Bees Communicate? (Types of Bee Dance and Meaning)

In this article, we will talk about such an amazing and interesting phenomenon among bees as ritual dances, which beekeepers paid attention to in the 17th century. Let discuss how do bees communicate and what are types of bee dance and their meaning.

How Do Bees Communicate? (Types of Bee Dance and Meaning)

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How Do Bees Communicate?

At first, it was believed that such movements are arbitrary and have no meaning for the bee colony. But the priest Spitzner managed to study this phenomenon in more detail and find out that the ritual movements of the bees inform their “compatriots” about the location of the nectar source and the size of the bribe on the ground. Let’s take a closer look at the dances of bees and how bees communitcate through and the meanings that each of them carries.

Types of Bee Dance and Meaning

Round dance

It looks like quick little dashes around the comb with frequent changes of direction, side to side throws, spins and circular motions. The round dance may continue for several seconds or minutes, stop and resume in another part of the bee nest. At the end of the dance, the insect goes to the notch, as if dragging the other inhabitants of the hive with it. They touch the “dancer” with their antennae and go to collect nectar.

Round dance

Waggle Dance

It is performed by a bee returning to the hive with filled baskets. The dancing insect describes a narrow semicircle in one direction, then returns to the starting point and again describes the semicircle, but in the opposite direction, returning to the original point. At the same time, her body makes oscillatory or wagging movements, spreading the scents of flowers around. A pleasant smell is recognized by other bees and encourages them to go to collect nectar.

According to Frisch’s observations, a bee performs a circular waltz when honey plants are located within a radius of no more than 100 m from the family home. The waggling dance is considered more informative than the circular dance and informs the bees about a bribe located more than 100 m from the clue.

Of great importance during the ritual are the directions of movement of the body of the insect in relation to the line of attraction of the Earth and the light source. The bees are also able to recognize the values ​​of the angle that the line of dance forms with the vertical axis. All these indicators give members of the bee colony detailed information about the location of the honeybee, allowing them to accurately reach the source of food. Numerous experiments have shown that during flights, the angle of deviation of the movement of bees does not exceed 15 degrees – so accurately they interpret the information received.

The distance to the honey plants the bees also learn from the number of direct dashes every 15 seconds of the wagging dance – the farther the bribe is, the fewer movements the individual makes. If, at a distance of up to 100 m, she performs 10 runs, then at a distance of up to 6 km, the number of runs is reduced to two.

The reaction to the Waggle Dance of the first honey bear differs depending on the age of other worker bees in the family. Experienced individuals instantly interpret the information received and go to honey plants without stopping. Young bees are clumsy, quickly lose contact with the dancer, sitting in one place for a long time. However, studies have shown that the work of beginner bees is also quite productive. Of the 150 labeled individuals, 91 returned to the hive with prey in the form of nectar or pollen, and 42 of them were able to dance the same ritual dance as the first bee, showing the direction and distance to the growth of honey plants.

Individual features of ritual movements were identified in Italian bees. Upon returning from the trick, they demonstrated a dance, the configuration of which resembled a figure-eight with wagging movements in the final. Such a waltz was performed by insects when the distance to the bribe did not exceed 100 meters. If the food source was located further away, the dance turned into a waggle.

Of great importance in the interpretation of dances are the smells that the bee-dancer brings with her. The sweeter and more fragrant the nectar, the more dynamic and lengthy the dance is. At the same time, the bees playing the role of “scouts” do not waltz until they are convinced of the quality and abundance of nectar in honey plants. The appearance of an unpleasant odor in the feed has a depressing effect on insects, and the “scouts” perform a trembling dance, informing their fellow tribesmen of the danger.

For orientation in the area, bees pay attention to the position of the sun in the sky, obstacles in the form of bridges and mountains, the outlines of coastlines near water bodies, and forest plantations. According to scientists, the skills of orientation in space in bees are more perfect than in mammals and birds.

Representatives of bee families are able to feel the earth’s gravity with the help of two systems of the balance organ:

  • neck, located between the chest and head;
  • stem-like – located at the junction of the breast and abdomen.

The second system is considered additional and is included in the work in case of failure of the first equilibrium system.

Bees perform dances even when the distance to the source of nectar is minimal – literally within “walking distance”. A circular waltz can be observed at a distance of up to 3 meters, a transitional waltz in the form of a figure of eight – up to 4 meters, a waving waltz – more than 4 meters. The intensity and duration of Waggle Dance depend on:

  • temperature in evidence;
  • environmental conditions;
  • amount of nectar in combs.

The warmer it is in the evidence and the less food it contains, the more active the dancers become. Circular and wavy dances can only be observed during the season of the active honey collection – in cold weather, it is time for a different kind of movement.

scraping dance

The dance, called scraping, is observed in the evening hours on the front wall of the house. Standing on their hind legs with their heads to the notch, the insects tilt their heads down and shake their bodies in different directions. At this moment, with their front legs and jaws, they seem to be scraping something from the surface, and with their antennae they touch the wall, feeling it. After such a dance, a sticky mass remains on the jaws and limbs of the dancers, which the bees periodically scrape off from themselves.

Beekeepers have found that the purpose of the rocking dance is to clean the walls of the nest from accumulated dirt and polish them. As a rule, these duties are assigned to young individuals, and they perform “hygienic” work not only in summer but also in winter.

Warning Dance

As the name implies, this dance is designed to warn the inhabitants of the hive of an impending threat. Naturalist Schneider observed the behavior of bees collecting sugar syrup deliberately poisoned with dinitrocresol. Recognizing the dangerous composition, the insects became excited, began to run in zigzags and spirals, shake their abdomens, performing an “alarming” dance and attracting the attention of their cohabitants. As the toxin spread into the bees home, the number of dancers increased, reaching a peak value after 2 hours.

In some cases, uninfected individuals entered into battle with the infected, trying to destroy them and thereby protect the hive from poisons. The battle can last until all the poisoned bees are killed.

Cleaning Dance

Periodically, each bee feels the need to clean the body of dirt, adhering wax and pollen. A special dance of “cleansing” helps her to cope with this task – a quick pawing of her paws with rhythmic swaying from side to side. The insect cleans the bases of the wings on its own, and the neighboring bee, which takes on the duties of a cleaner, helps it to clean the breast and abdomen.

She scrapes impurities from her neighbor’s torso, vigorously working her jaws and antennae as if chewing something. From time to time, the cleaner climbs on a neighbor, working through the abdomen, chest grooves, and wings. It takes about 1 minute to process one bee – the drones living in the hive are also cleaned.

Happiness Dance

“Joyful waltzing” can be observed in the family in favorable weather after a plentiful bribe. During the performance of the dance, one bee leans on the other with its front paws, simultaneously swaying from side to side and in the direction back and forth. Then the dancer goes to another individual, and the dance is repeated.

The same dances are performed in queenless bee colonies awaiting the birth of an infertile queen. Adult bees, who have already learned to actively forage for food, usually take part in the dance. The dance of “joy” is performed at any time of the day, in any season, and does not depend on the amount of food in the combs.

Massage dance

From time to time, a bee on a comb makes strange head tilts, urging relatives to follow her example. At this time, neighboring bees begin to actively explore it, moving their front paws, moving their antennae, touching their hind legs and sides. They can crawl under the belly of a neighbor and clean up the antennae.

The bee, which first started the “massage” dance, at this time opens its upper jaws and puts forward its proboscis, like nurse bees. When a neighboring bee “massages” it, it begins to actively clean and stroke the proboscis with its front paws.

“Massaging” individuals continue to actively explore the body of their neighbor – lick it, from time to time push it with their proboscis and jaws. After a few minutes, the dance ends, and the bee that first attracted attention continues to stroke itself and calmly moves away. The massage dance is most often observed in the cold season – apparently, it helps the frozen insects to warm up a little.