Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UC Riverside entomologists report bee-dancing brings more food to honeybee colonies

16.12.2002


Honeybees communicate by dancing. The dances tell worker bees where to find nectar. A UC Riverside study reports that under natural foraging conditions the communication of distance and direction in the dance language can increase the food collection of honeybee colonies. The study also confirms that bees use this directional information in locating the food sources advertised in the dance.


Diagram of the honeybee dance. (Credit: P. Kirk Visscher.)


Honeybees



Based on work done in 2001 in the Agricultural Experiment Station at UC Riverside, P. Kirk Visscher, professor of entomology, and Gavin Sherman, former graduate student in the department of entomology, report their findings in a paper entitled "Honeybee colonies achieve fitness through dancing" in the journal Nature.

The honey bee "dance language," first described in the 1940s, reflects the distance and direction to the food source visited by the forager. A bee returning from a rich source of food will "dance" on the vertical comb surface by running in a circle. On each revolution, the bee will bisect the circle at an angle. The angle with respect to 12 o’clock represents the angle to fly with respect to the sun. If the bee ran from 6 to 12 o’clock (i.e., straight up), this would communicate to the other bees to fly directly towards the sun. As the bee dances, it also waggles its abdomen whilst crossing the circle. The number of waggles tells the other bees how far away from the beehive the nectar is. The more the waggles, the greater the distance to the nectar.


"The dance language is the most complex example of symbolic communication in any animal other than primates," said Visscher. "Our study is the first test of the adaptive value of the dance language. It provides insights that may be of use in manipulating foraging behavior of honeybees for pollination of crops."

There has been a long-simmering controversy over whether the direction and distance information in the dance is actually decoded by the recruits which follow the dances, or whether recruitment is based on the recruits learning only the odor food source from the dancer, and subsequently searching out the food based on odor alone. Several experiments have been published that have convinced most scientists that the bees can decode the direction and distance information, but the relative role of odor and location information has remained in question.

To test the effect of the information in the dance, Sherman and Visscher turned the normally vertical beehive on its side. With the combs horizontal, there was no upward reference for the dancer to use in orienting her waggle runs, and it performed disoriented dances, in which the waggle runs pointed in all directions. To experimentally restore dance information, the experimenters provided a directional light source, which the bees interpreted as the sun. The bees proceeded to do well-oriented dances at the angle relative to the light.

Using these treatments, Sherman and Visscher compared the weight gained by colonies which had oriented dances with that gained by colonies with disoriented dances. To control for colony-to-colony differences, the researchers exchanged treatments periodically. Overall, colonies with oriented dances collected more food, they found. However, this effect was strong only during the winter season. During the summer there was a weak difference, during autumn no difference in food collection. "In the ecology of honeybee colony, though, even short periods of intense food collection can make the difference between survival and death by starvation," Visscher said.

The UC Riverside study also addresses the issues of the dance language controversy. Bees were recruited to syrup feeders in greater numbers when they followed dances which contained distance and direction information as well as odor than when they followed disoriented dances which could only communicate odor. However, at feeders 250 meters from the colony, about one quarter of the recruits did arrive with only odor information. As the distance increased, though, the bees from hives with oriented dances comprised an increasing proportion of the recruits.

Bees have been producing honey as they do today for at least 150 million years. They produce honey as food stores for the hive during the long months of winter when flowers are not in bloom and when, therefore, little or no nectar is available to them. The honeybee has three pairs of legs, four wings, a stinger and a special stomach that holds nectar. It is the only insect that produces food eaten by humans.

The University of California’s entomological research in Southern California dates back to 1906. Over the years, the UC Riverside Department of Entomology has excelled in virtually all phases of entomological research and developed a scope of expertise unmatched by any other entomology department in the country. Today, the UC Riverside campus is on the cutting edge of advanced entomological research and features a unique new Insectary and Quarantine facility that permits the safe study of exotic organisms from around the world.

Iqbal Pittalwala | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.entomology.ucr.edu/people/visscher.html
http://www.cnas.ucr.edu/
http://www.entomology.ucr.edu/about/newbuildings.html

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

nachricht Fighting a destructive crop disease with mathematics
21.06.2017 | University of Cambridge

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>