Waggle Dance

photo credit: www.mnn.com

photo credit: www.mnn.com

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.

photo credit: picture-book.com

photo credit: picture-book.com

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:

http://video.pbs.org/video/2300846183/

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About Jennie Stitzinger

In the summer of 2010 I walked in to the Penn State Agricultural Sciences building to inquire about a job a friend had mentioned to me. I was a poor college student, I needed to pay my summer rent, I was offered the job and I took it—I had no idea what I was in for. Fast forward a little over a year and I was kneeling on rocks and mud, in the cold, northern California rain, surrounded by dairy cows and hundreds of hives while Africanized bees were pinging off my bee suit. With a degree in Community Development from Penn State University, I never thought in a million years I would be working with honey bees upon graduation, but I guess life sure has its surprises. Now a member of the University of Maryland Diagnostic team, I work on many different aspects of BIP and the National Honey Bee Survey. Whether it is field work, traveling, report writing, crunch time projects, or larger missions, I am most likely working on it. What is my favorite part of the job? Working on an awesome project that has impact and is helping beekeepers around the country, learning more about honey bees than I ever thought I wanted to know, and giving me experiences I never thought possible.

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