Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


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


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.)


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:

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht “How trees coexist” – new findings from biodiversity research published in Nature Communications
22.03.2018 | Technische Universität Dresden

nachricht Earlier flowering of modern winter wheat cultivars
20.03.2018 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

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: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Generation of a Stable Biradical

22.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Scientists develop a room temperature maser to amplify weak signals

22.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Jacobs University supports new mapping of Mars, Mercury and the Moon

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>