, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 51-56

The stop signal of honey bees: reconsidering its message

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Summary

The stop signal of honey bees has long been regarded as a vibrational begging signal produced by dance followers to elicit food from waggle dancers (Esch 1964). On the basis of playback experiments and behavioral analysis, this study presents the following evidence for a different signal function. Stop signals (1) can be produced by tremble dancers, dance followers, and waggle dancers; (2) rarely elicit trophallaxis; and (3) evidently cause waggle dancers to leave the dance floor. Subsequent work by Kirchner (submitted) using vibrational playback experiments confirms the latter observation. When the colony's food storers are temporarily overwhelmed by a large nectar influx, returning foragers will search for prolonged periods before unloading food and consequently begin to tremble dance (Seeley 1992). In this study, tremble dancers were the major producer of stop signals on the dance floor. The stop signal may thus retard recruitment until balance is restored.