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Honey Bee Dance

There are two major theories on how honey bee foragers communicate with other workers about a new food source: the honey bee dance and the odor plume. Although there is evidence to support each claim, the honey bee dance is more widely accepted. The dance language combines dancing and odor as a bee’s means of communication, while the odor plume theory claims that honey bee recruitment relies solely on floral odor. The honey bee dance plays an important role in the survival of the species: it has been a part of colonies for years and has remained one of the most important methods used in foraging for food.

The honey bee dance is a way for bees to communicate with one another. A honey bee that discovers a new food source will tell other honey bees about its location through the honey bee dance. When a worker bee returns from an abundant food source, she will dance inside their nest in a circle.

There are two main types of honey bee dances: round dance and waggle dance. Round dance, as the name indicates, is a movement in a circle. This is used to indicate the food source is less than 50 meters from the nest. Waggle dance is a figure eight pattern while the bee waggles its abdomen and is used for food located at a distance of more than 150 meters. Exact distance can be communicated by duration of the dance. A longer dance indicates a great distance.

The dancing worker bee also can indicate direction with the waggle dance and will move in reference to the sun’s vertical position. The degrees to the right or left of the vertical indicate the direction of the food. For example, if the bee’s dance is rotated 30 degrees to the vertical then the food will be found at a 30 degree angle from the nest related to the sun’s vertical.

This language is also understandable by humans, and researchers determine effectiveness by measuring the amount and quality of new pollen and nectar brought into the nest. However, certain features of this dance language, including the fact that honey bees understand dance patterns even in the dark, are still not understood.

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