Communication in bees by waggle dance

Domestic honey bee, Apis mellifera is a colonial insect living in hives containing one queen a fertile female ,a few drones (males) and thousands of workers (infertile females). Some 5–25% of the workers in the hive are scouts. Their job is to search for new sources of food for the other workers, the foragers, to harvest. While both scouts and foragers look alike, recent research suggests that they represent stable subpopulations with distinctive patterns of gene expression in their brains. (See Liang, Z. S., et al., in the 9 March 2012 issue of Science. The waggle dance is a special ‘figure-of-eight’ dance that is done by the honeybee in its hive. By this, a worker tells the others where it has found nectar. This was shown by the Austrian ethologist Karl von Frisch.The dance is a type of communication for bees. It is done to give other bees information about the direction and distance to flowers that have nectar or pollen, or both. It is also used to tell the bees where water can be found.The dance is used for bees to get others to help them collect resources for the hive. It used to be thought that bees have two distinct “recruitment” dances. There were the “round dances” and waggle dances. Round dances were thought to be used for things that were close by and wiggle dances were for things farther away. It is now known that a round dance is only a waggle dance with a very short “waggle run”.

The food is discovered by scouts, they return to the hive. Shortly after their return, many foragers leave the hive and fly directly to the food. The remarkable thing about this is that the foragers do not follow the scouts back. The scouts may remain in the hive for hours and those that leave continue to hunt for new sources of food even though the foragers are continuing to bring back ample supplies of food from the sites the scouts discovered earlier. So the scout bees have communicated to the foragers the necessary information for them to find the food on their own. When food is within 50–75 meters of the hive, the scouts dance the “round dance” on the surface of the comb (left). Workers have another type of dance rapidly vibrating from side to side — that tells other workers that she needs help removing dust, pollen, etc. from hard-to-reach places on her body. But when the food is farther than 75 meters from the hive, the scouts dance the “waggle dance” (right).

The waggle dance has two components one a straight run the direction of which conveys information about the direction of the food and the speed at which the dance is repeated which indicates how far away the food is. Relationship between the angle of the dance on the vertical comb and the bearing of the sun with respect to the location of food. When the food and sun are in the same direction, the straight portion of the waggle dance is directed upward. When the food is at some angle to the right (blue) or left (red) of the sun, the bee orients the straight portion of her dance at the same angle to the right or left of the vertical.

By:- Dr. Mamta Joshi
Department of Zoology
Uttaranchal (P.G.) College of Biomedical Sciences and Hospital