Bees like to move it, move it…


We all are almost aware of the social behavior shown by honey bees. They usually stay in large groups in bee hives.

It takes days and days for a honey bee to find a good source of honey but when it(scout) finds and leaves the source; in a very short time, large number of bees(recruits), run towards the source.

It’s a contrary that how such a large number of recruits reach the source in a short time, after the scout leaves the place!

How could be the information conveyed to the recruits by the scout?

Karl von Frisch found out the answer for which he won the noble prize in 1973.

When one of the Scout finds a good floral source, she pick up some of them(nectar),bring it back to the hive,distributes among her fellow foragers.

As soon as the distribution is over,the bee starts dancing.

The purpose of the dancing at this stage is so obvious that she tries to show the recruits the direction, distance and how good the taste of the floral source is.

There are two types of dances; the round dance  and the waggle dance


Round dance is as simple as a round. This dancing pattern is shown when the source is 25-100 m from the hive but this does not give any directional information to the recruits about the source, they know only the source in this range. They detect the smell of source on the dancing bee or find the smell of dancing bee on the detected flower(left out by its scent gland), then visit the source in the range and enjoy the treat.

And if the source is more than 100m, the dance turns out to be a waggle dance as shown in the picture(two complete circles joint by a zig zag design or shape of 8).

As in the previous instance, here too, the bee brings a sample which is unloaded by the recruits, then she starts dancing in the above shape, which gives information on the distance, direction, how good the source is and the energy needed to fly to the goal.

Its found out that the bee may dance 8-9 circuits in 15 seconds for a food source 200 meters away, 4-5 for a food source 1000 meters away, and 3 circuits in 15 seconds for a food source 2000 meters away. As such, distance is detected by the individuals.

Also if the bee dances horizontally in the hive, the direction to which the  ‘8’ or the waggling, in the dance points, directly shows the source.

But if the dance is vertical on the hive wall, it shows the direction with respect to that of sun.

If the dance is directly vertical, source is directly above the hive

If the dance is in a particular angle from sun, source is in that angle from the sun in that direction.

It was found out that bees can detect the direction of sun even in the darkness of the hive because the sense they can detect the direction of sun on their own.

If the food source is too good, the dance becomes more animatic and the bees would know that the food source is too good as reflected by the bee.

We will be able to see only the blurred movement of the bee as this…

As such, Karl von Frish found out a beautiful behavior shown by this small organism.

It paves way that there are wonders in nature in the unopened pages.Hope more comes out from the generation as us!




Inspired by the lecture on animal communication by Prof. Wipula Yapa Sir.

Image Courtesy :

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