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You are here: Research & Tech Bee Behaviour Waggle Dance Effective in Recruiting Foragers and Collection of Food

Waggle Dance Effective in Recruiting Foragers and Collection of Food

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Pune, May 3, 2012: Honey bees use a combination of sounds, scents and gestures in their waggle dance to convey information about the location, quality and quantity of food to other nest-mates in the hive. Researchers from the University of Arizona, University of Notre-Dame, Indiana and Carl Hayden Bee Laboratory, USDA, Arizona in the USA have shown1 that waggle dancing Apis mellifera bees produce semiochemicals, that helped in worker recruitment.

Another team of researchers from the Nagoya University, Japan and the University of Iowa, USA investigated2 the sound production and perception during the waggle dance and found that adult worker bees' Johnston's Organ neurons could detect low frequency sound from short distances in a dark hive, and had the ability to preserve both frequency and temporal information of acoustic stimuli including the waggle dance sound.

Sherman and Visscher3 had shown that colonies with disoriented dances recruited less effectively to food sources than did colonies with oriented dances. They suggested that food location information in the dance was  important when food sources were scarce. Thus the dance would improve the fitness of the colony in critical forage conditions like those occurring in winter.

In a latest study4 on the effect of the dance behavior on the food condition in the colony, published in the May 15, 2012 issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers from the Tokushima Bunri University, the University of Hyogo and the Hokkaido University in Japan, found that the loss in colony weight was less in colonies where waggle dances were done, than in colonies that had no waggle dance.

In the 'Summary' of the paper the authors say: "We examined the efficacy of the waggle dances by physically preventing bees from dancing and then analyzing the changes in daily mass of the hive as an index of daily food collection. To eliminate place- and year-specific effects, the experiments were performed under fully natural conditions in three different cities in Japan from mid-September to early October in three different years. Because the experiments were performed in autumn, all six of the tested colonies lost mass on most of the experimental days. When the dance was prevented, the daily reduction in mass change was greater than when the dance was allowed, i.e., the dance inhibited the reduction of the hive mass. This indicates that dance is effective for food collection. Furthermore, clear inhibition was observed on the first two days of the experiments; after that, inhibition was no longer evident. This result suggests that the bee colony adapted to the new  environment."

References cited:

  1. Thom, C., Gilley, D.C., Hooper, J. and Esch, H.E. 2007. The scent of thre waggle dance. PLoS Biol 5(9): e228. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050228.
  2. Tsujiuchi, S., Sivan-Loukianova, E., Eberl, D.F., Kitagawa, Y. and Kadowaki, T. 2007. Dynamic range compression in the honey bee auditory system toward waggle dance sounds. PLoS ONE 2(2): e234. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000234.
  3. Sherman, G. and Visscher, P.K. 2002. Honeybee colonies achieve fitness through dancing. Nature 419: 922-924.
  4. Okada, R., Akamatsu, T., Iwata, K., Ikeno, H., Kimura, T., Ohashi, M., Aonuma, H. and Ito, E. 2012. Waggle dance effect: dancing in autumn reduces the mass loss of a honeybee colony. Journal of Experimental Biology, 215: 1633-1641. doi: 10.1242/jeb.068650, May 15, 2012.