Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 143-150

First online:

How honeybees perceive communication dances, studied by means of a mechanical model

  • Axel MichelsenAffiliated withInstitute of Biology, Odense University
  • , Bent Bach AndersenAffiliated withInstitute of Biology, Odense University
  • , Jesper StormAffiliated withInstitute of Biology, Odense University
  • , Wolfgang H. KirchnerAffiliated withLehrstuhl für Zoologie II, Würzburg University
  • , Martin LindauerAffiliated withLehrstuhl für Zoologie II, Würzburg University

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A mechanical model of a dancing honeybee was used to investigate the role of various components of the wagging dance in the transfer of information to follower bees. The model simulates the dance, carries a scent, and has an acoustic near-field similar to that of live dancers. The movements of the model are controlled by a computer, and selected components of the dance can be manipulated independently of others. The number of bees approaching scented baits at various distances and directions from the hive was observed, both during simulated “normal” dances and dances in which different components provided potentially conflicting information about the location of the food. The results indicate that the wagging run is the “master component” of the dance. The figure-of-eight dance path does not seem to convey information. Both sound and wagging must be present in the dance, but no specific roles were found for these components. Both sound and wagging convey information about distance and direction, and they appear to be largely redundant.