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The Bee Waggle Dance

Communication is key in the success of a honey bee colony, they are a ‘hive mind’ so to speak. One of the most interesting ways worker bees communicate with each other is through ‘waggle dance’.

Photography by Rachel Sampara

On finding good forage, a worker bee will return to the hive to tell the others in the colony where to find it, through the art of dance! The waggle dance not only tells the others about the location of the forage but how good the nectar and pollen tastes and how nutritious it is.

So, how does this dance work? The angle between the vertical axis of the comb and the path which the bee dances up, is the same angle between the sun and the forage. This lets the other bees know which angle from the sun to fly at, once they leave the hive.

With the angle from the sun established, the others now need to know the distance they need to fly from this angle to find the forage. This is shown by the length of the line the bee dances up, for example: if they dance in a short line, the forage is close; if they dance in a long line, the forage is further away. They dance up the line for the appropriate distance and then loop by round the repeat the process.

Photography by Rachel Sampara

The ‘waggle’ itself is the bee vibrating its abdomen (it looks like she’s shaking her bottom)! The faster the bee waggles, the better the food is!

What’s more impressive is that the hive is in complete darkness. This means the others can’t even see the positioning of the dancing bee and they are able to receive this message purely hearing the vibrations of the dancers’ movements. There are tens of thousands of bees in just one colony, so for the bees to be able to decipher the orientation, distance and deliciousness of a single dancing bees is pretty incredible!

Written by Rachel Sampara

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