Poshan Outlook

Dance of the bees

Communication across various species is a complex affair for humans to comprehend. The uniqueness in each species is also interesting.

Poshan Outlook
Soumi Dey - November 01, 2020
Dance of the bees

Communication across various species is a complex affair for humans to comprehend. The uniqueness in each species is also interesting. The honey bee waggle dance is one such interesting forms of social communication which the species use to communicate between themselves. Unlike humans, they rely on body movements to inform their fellow mates about food sources, potential attacks or threats.

The honey bee waggle dance in particular shows how everything in nature is organized. The dance helps the forager bees to communicate with their fellow nestmates, about the distance of the food source from the nest along with external information. Interacting with the nestmates helps the foragers to get an idea about the food storage and requirements whereas interaction with some others helps them with the information of predation or overcrowding at the food source.

The waggle dance properties are very diverse in different bee species producing visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile signals.

 

Researchers Ebi Antony George, Smruti Pimplikar, Neethu Thulasi and Axel Brockmann observed the behavioral differences between three major Asian honey bee species, Apis florea, Apis dorsata and Apis cerana. It has been surprisingly observed that the way the bee dance followers behaved across all three species was highly similar, positioning themselves lateral to the waggle dancer. 

From the new research paper “Similarities in dance follower behaviour across honey bee species suggest a conserved mechanism of dance communication”, (published in 2020) it has also been concluded that all honey bee species use tactile contacts in their communication process. This is a type of contact where they touch each other to communicate information. 

The waggle dance process is not as simple as it sounds. It comprises multiple circuits with each of these circuits consisting of two phases each. The first phase starts with a straight forward movement in which the dancer waggles the abdominal region back and forth. The second phase brings back the dancer to the point of origin of the first phase along a semicircular path.

 

In general, the duration of the waggle dance is determined by the distance of the food source. An interesting observation has been made in one of the honey bee species Apis mellifera. Their foragers dance in the dark and on vertical axis.

Among bees there stands a classification of dwarf bees and giant bees. Generally, these giant and dwarf species of bees nest on open branches of trees. They generally perform their dances while being exposed to the sun. The dwarf honey bees dance on a horizontal surface with raised abdomens and no auditory signals while the giants dance on a vertical surface with few of them producing auditory signals as well.

 


Written by: Soumi Dey