A couple weeks ago we heard a talk on native bees and the way in which they communicate nectar source locations amongst themselves. Certain native bees leave an odor trail by way of pheromone droplets. The stronger the pheromone is, the more bees that will be attracted and led to the food source.
Honey bees have their own way of sharing a nectar source location by way of what is known as the ‘waggle dance.’ The dance is performed near the hive entrance to ensure convenient entry and exit of foragers to the source. It is not performed when just any nectar source is found, but rather when the source is highly profitable.
When a bee comes back from foraging and begins to dance the other foragers gather around her excitedly like an audience. The dance involves wing fluttering and a figure-eight pattern with a straight walk in the middles of the loops. By allowing fellow bees to sample her antennae she shares the odor of the flowers with them.
Make no mistake every bit of the dance is significant. The longer the waggle dance, the farther the nectar source lies from the colony. Typically, dances last between 1 and 100 waggles, but with every 75 milliseconds it appears the bee is communicating that the nectar source lies an additional 330 feet away. The dancer even indicates the direction of the source from the angle she positions herself on the hive from the sun! Check out the following video posted on PBS that explains the dance: