Geek Trivia

Bees Communicate Food Locations To Hive Members By?

Leading Them There
Rhythmic Buzzing
Telegraph-like Tapping
Which Best Selling Author Used Their Initials To Appeal To Young Male Readers?

Answer: Dancing

Bees are complex creatures with a highly efficient colony hierarchy and high energy needs, so it should come as no surprise that they have an equally complex but efficient method of communicating where precious resources are to their fellow colony members.

When a bee returns to the hive after successfully locating food, the bee alerts fellow workers to the location of the food with a very precise dance. Commonly called the “waggle dance” among bee keepers, this dance is a combination of zig-zagging maneuvers (the “waggle” part of the dance) alternated with a figure eight loop¬†around the spot where the waggle dance was performed.

The information encoded in the dance includes distance, the position of the resource relative to the hive and, if needed, the flight path relative to the position of the sun. In addition to the actual physical movements, there is evidence the bees also excrete two alkanes and two alkenes onto their abdomens and into the air, and give off an electric charge that affects the antennae of nearby bees.

All told, the dance is very effective and the bees observing the dance are able to locate food resources with surprising accuracy.

Image courtesy of Chittka L.