How do honey bees dance

NOVA Online | Tales from the Hive


A worker does the waggle dance before an attentive crowd of foragers.

Honeybees have evolved an extraordinary form of communication known as the "waggle" dance. It is highly symbolic, separated as it is in both time and space from the activity it grew out of (discovering a nectar source) and the activity it will spur on (getting other bees to go to that nectar source).
When a worker discovers a good source of nectar or pollen (note the pollen spores dusting this bee's back), she will return to the hive to perform a waggle dance to let her nest mates know where it lies.

A bee performs the waggle dance when she wants to inform other bees of a nectar source she has found. The waggle occurs on a special dance floor, which is conveniently located near the entrance to facilitate quick entry and exit of foragers, and only bees with news of highly profitable sources of nectar execute the dance. Arriving back at the nest, a bee with news to share immediately proceeds to the dance floor, where other bees waiting for news gather around her. During the waggle, she dances a figure-eight pattern, with a straight "walk" in between the loops and a sporadic fluttering of her wings.

The worker communicates several key pieces of information during the dance. The longer she waggles - typically bees make between one and 100 waggle runs per dance - the farther the flower patch lies from the hive, with every 75 milliseconds she prolongs the dance adding roughly another 330 feet to the distance. She shows how rich the source is by how long and/or how vigorously she dances. Perhaps most astonishingly, she indicates the direction of the source by the angle her waggle walk deviates from an imaginary straight line drawn from the dance floor to the sun at its current position. In other words, if the source lies in the exact direction of the sun, the bee will walk facing exactly straight up (remember that a hive hangs vertically). If it lies 20 degrees to the right of that imaginary line to the sun, the angle of the bee's walk will be 20 degrees to the right of vertical. Finally, the dancer shares the odor of the flowers in question with the other bees, who sample it with their antennae.

Attendees will watch only one waggle dance and only for a brief period before leaving the hive. In this way, the bee works for the good of the hive rather than for the good of herself. If she stayed for the whole dance, she would know exactly how rich the source is, for instance. But if all bees waited for the entire dance to take place, and then only went to the richest sources, the colony would not be maximizing its use of available resources. This behavior is one of many instances of how, when it comes to honeybees, natural selection operates on the level of the colony, not the individual bee.

With the waggle dance, a worker communicates the distance, direction, and quality of a nectar-rich flower patch to her fellow honeybees.

Honeybees perform two other types of dance. A worker does the "shake" dance when nectar sources are so rich that more foragers are needed. A worker arriving back from a foraging run will move throughout the hive and shake her abdomen back and forth before a non-foraging worker for one to two seconds before moving onto more non-foragers at the rate of between one and 20 bees per minute. The shake dance encourages these non-foragers to make their way to the waggle dance floor.

Finally, workers do the "tremble" dance when foragers have brought so much nectar back to the hive that more bees are needed to process the nectar into honey. Walking slowly around the nest, the dancer quivers her legs, causing her body to tremble forward and backward and from side to side. Lasting sometimes more than an hour, the tremble dance stimulates additional bees to begin processing nectar.

Photos: ©1998 ORF.

Bee Waggle Dance


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Waggle dance | Round dance | Flowers


Bees in a colony work with each other to gather food. They try to find the most pollen and nectar in the least amount of time possible.

Finding the best flowers
Some flowers have more pollen and nectar than others. When a good flower patch is found, bees recruit other bees from their colony to the patch. But how do they tell those bees where to find the best flowers?

Bees communicate flower location using special dances inside the hive. One bee dances, while other bees watch to learn the directions to a specific flower patch. The dancing bee smells like the flower patch, and also gives the watching bees a taste of the nectar she gathered. Smell and taste helps other bees find the correct flower patch.

Bees use two different kinds of dances to communicate information: the waggle dance and the circle dance. Read more about the two different dances below.

Waggle dance

The waggle dance tells the watching bees two things about a flower patch’s location: the distance and the direction away from the hive. Let’s take a closer look at how this works.


The dancing bee waggles back and forth as she moves forward in a straight line, then circles around to repeat the dance. The length of the middle line, called the waggle run, shows roughly how far it is to the flower patch. Which dance below tells the watching bees that the flower patch is farther from the hive? If you guessed the dance on the left, you are correct!


Bees know which way is up and which way is down inside their hive, and they use this to show direction. How? Bees dance with the waggle run at a specific angle away from straight up. Outside the hive, bees look at the position of the sun, and fly at the same angle away from the sun.

If the sun were in a different position, the angle would stay the same, but the direction to the correct flower patch would be different.

Round dance

The round dance tells the watching bees only one thing about the flower patch’s location: that it is somewhere close to the hive. This dance does not include a waggle run, or any information about the direction of the flower patch.

In this dance, the bee walks in a circle, turns around, then walks the same circle in the opposite direction. She repeats this many times. Sometimes, the bee includes a little waggle as she’s turning around. The duration of this waggle is thought to indicate the quality of the flower patch she has found.

Finding the best flowers

Honey bee colonies collect two main resources from flowers: nectar and pollen. Their goal is to find the flowers with the most of these two resources.

Individual bees do two things when searching for flowers to get the most resources. First, they specialize to collect one resource at a time: either nectar or pollen. Specializing and focusing on one resource at a time helps bees more easily recognize the best flowers.

Second, bees look for and remember which flower species is the most rewarding. This can change over time. A species of flower that had the most nectar one month might not be the species with the most nectar the next month, for example.

Once a bee finds a good flower, she collects resources and returns to the hive, and dances to tell other members of her colony where to find the flower so they can go and collect more resources from it. To motivate other bees to find the correct flower patch, the dancing bee shares a sample of nectar she collected with them. She does this by regurgitating a sample of the nectar that was stored in her honey stomach for them to taste. These watchers also smell the scent of the flower on the dancing bees’s hind end. These clues help the watching bees locate the correct flower patch outside the hive.

What do bees see?

Bees see the world quite differently from you or me. One difference is that bees have difficulty distinguishing red colors. However, what they can’t see in the red they make up for in the blues, greens, and purples. Bees can even see colors we cannot. Bees can see the ultra violet light we use sunblock to protect our skin from. Seeing ultra violet light helps bees see secret patterns flowers display to show where their nectar is hidden.


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Mesmerizing dance of honey bees | geomed

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The dance of the honey bee - a mechanistic view of the behavior and communication of bees

The dance of the honey bee is the most interesting concept in biology, which is considered a communication system. This fascinating communication system is mainly used to share information about nesting sites and food sources among bees. This symbolic system, commonly known as the "Honey Bee's Swinging Dance," provides excellent information on the distance of the site from the hive, as well as the angle of flight to the flower site.

The species of honey bees are tropical and therefore their dance evolves in such a way that flowers are available in small patches and at short notice each year. In this unique situation where flowers are only available for a shorter period of time, it is helpful to quickly communicate the feeding area to nestmates. In various areas where honey bees are found in large numbers, including rural fields and urban settings, the benefit of playing the waggle dance is more subtle, as these uniform spaces can make such behavior meaningless.

The matching dance of the honey bee (Apis) seems to be the most popular of all creature signaling. It has also been depicted as the only known type of "symbolic communication" in spineless creatures. The honey bee "talks" by doing the popular "waggle dance". She shakes her middle part, which, near the end of the comb she shakes, gives very accurate headings depending on the area of ​​the sun, about where to find new flowers with nectar and pollen. The movements of the honey bee in the dance as a whole will be in the form of a figure eight, and the time frame in which it continues gives an idea of ​​​​the distance.

This dance language of honey bees is the most remarkable form of communication and is divided into three types:

Dance: At the moment when the source of food is exclusively near the hive, usually at a distance of less than 50 meters, the forager plays a dance. Runs in a simple loop. She does this by moving in tight circles, abruptly changing direction to her original and unique course. She may repeat the dance several times in a similar location, or move to another location on the ridge to reenact it. After the dance is over, she regularly delivers food to nearby honey bees. Thus, the round dance informs about the distance, and not about the direction of the flower.

Sickle dance: Food sources located 50-150 meters from the hive are commonly known as the sickle dance. It mainly refers to the temporary/intermediate dance between the circle dance and the waggle dance and is shaped like a half moon. This dance is performed in the shape of a figure eight without swaying in the middle and announces that the flowers are already around the corner and on the next street.

Waggle Dance: The honey bee walks in order, swaying its backside and buzzing its wings. At that moment, she turns and returns to where she started. She walks in a straight line again, shaking her buttocks and buzzing her wings, at this moment she circles in the other direction, forming a figure eight on the dance floor. The straight line shows the direction of the meal, and the number of wiggles indicates the distance.

In the world of honey bees, the vertical surface of the comb (imagine sections of comb hanging inside the hive) speaks to the sun, and the point of a straight line to the vertical shows the position of trees or flowers to the sun. For example, if a straight line is at a 60 degree angle, at that point the food source is at a 60 degree angle to the sun.

As the sun moves continuously across the sky, the dancing bee tracks the evolution of the sun by changing the point of its dance, like a clockwork, one degree towards the west.

A healthy bee colony always functions like a buzzing, humming, oiled machine. At the height of summer, a useful and productive hive can have several thousand individuals. Somewhere in the range of 50,000 to 60,000 individuals is considered a mature, adult province. Everyone in the hive has a job to do, and everyone does it viably. Each bumblebee works vigorously to accumulate nectar, produce nectar, raise the young and guarantee the hardiness of the state for more than one week, month or year.

The interpersonal communication of the honey bees enables the settlement to carry out its tasks, defend itself against anticipated dangers, and thrive as the superorganism it appears to be. Bumblebees use many types of correspondence, and all of them are intriguing.

Some Fascinating Facts About the Honey Bee Dance -

1. Bees communicate in the dark:

Honey bees never rely on their sight or light to talk or communicate in the dark chambers of their hive. Instead, they move or communicate using pheromones, tasting and touching.

2. The main topic of conversation is honey:

Sharing food inside the hive is a constant and necessary part of communication. Hungry house honey bees will stop foragers or other house honey bees to ask for food and will get food if available. Food passes quickly through the hive. Thus, any contamination from pesticides, chemicals, or other unfamiliar substances clears its way through the hive within 48 hours.

3. Pheromone rule:

The queen communicates with all hive individuals through her pheromones. The queen and her helpers are in constant communication (several dozen honey bees who look after her and monitor her needs) by sending the queen's pheromones through the hive with an expanding influence through the sense of touch. In the event that the queen dies or is forced out, the entire hive will also know in about 48 hours.

4. Remarkable olfactory ability:

Honey bees use scent recognition to find food sources. Honey bees have an excellent sense of smell - better than mosquitoes or even fruit flies. They prefer sweet fragrances, the best part of which encourages them to visit sweet smelling flowers in search of nectar. They also use this unusual sense of smell to obtain pheromones from their hive mates and the queen.

5. Dance moves speak well:

Foragers returning from the field speak to others through a series of signaling movements called waggles that share topographical areas of phenomenal forage material. In addition to the dance moves, the returning bees share nectar with new foragers, giving them additional information before they go scavenging.

6. Finding a new place to live is a group effort

The waggle dance is not only used to tell the location of nectar sources. At the moment when the bumblebees throw the crowd out of the mother hive, the crowd sends scout honey bees in search of another home. They return to their efforts with accurate information about possible new home conditions and use the waggle dance to communicate this data. The honey bees then "vote" for the best location given by the scouts and take off alone to call the place home.

Analysts have been debating the fascinating ways honey bees communicate for years. In a nuclear family of vast numbers of people, honey bees understand how to share accurate data, make important decisions that affect the entire nation, and support each other for the good of all. We could get a lot from the individual honey bee and its social unit.

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