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Bees got talent - exploring the 'waggle dance'

Getting to the supermarket from my apartment is pretty easy: I simply step out of the door, take a left, head down the street, take another left, first right – sorted. Alternatively, if those directions are a bit complicated (luckily for me, they aren’t) there are other ways for me to communicate this information, such as downloading a map from Google or using satellite navigation programs.

Guiding humans to a food source is quite easy and something which we, as a species, are generally very good at. However, we are not the only creatures who excel at sending directions.

Bees can also alert each other to the whereabouts of food. Yet, their method of communication is a bit different to ours – they dance.

When a bee has found a promising food resource, it will return to the hive and communicate its location by shuffling in a direction which relates to the sun's position. So, for example, if the supplies can be found by flying in the direction of the sun, the bee will record its whereabouts by waggling its body straight up. Yet, if it is located directly to the left of the hive, the creature will dance at a 90 degree angle to the sun.

Furthermore, the bee can communicate how rich the food source is and its distance from the hive by making several changes to this dance.

Take a look at our infographic for more information:

Although the dance might vary between bee species, this video by the Bienentanz organisation shows these moves in action.

 

Bees can communicate the location, quantity, as well as the distance of food sources to each other – and that makes them pretty intelligent for such a little creature. They might also be able to report the whereabouts of other materials, such as the plant resins needed for making propolis.

This is certainly an interesting possibility, and one which could be investigated in the future. However, while this method of communication is fascinating, please refrain from reporting the whereabouts of resources by dancing. You'll probably just get strange looks from people...