, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 169-172

Vibrational signals in the tremble dance of the honeybee, Apis mellifera

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The tremble dance is a behavior sometimes performed by honeybee foragers returning to the hive. The biological significance of this behavior was unclear until Seeley (1992) demonstrated that tremble dances occur mainly when a colony's nectar influx is so high that the foragers must undertake lenghty searches in order to find food storers to unload their nectar. He suggested that tremble dancing has the effect of stimulating additional bees to function as food-storers, thereby raising the colony's capacity for processing nectar. Here I describe vibrational signals emitted by the tremble dancers. Simulation experiments with artificial tremble dance sounds revealed that these sounds inhibited dancing and reduced recruitment to feeding sites. The results suggest that the tremble dance is a negative feedback system counterbalancing the positive feedback of recruitment by waggle dances. Thus, the tremble dance seems to affect not only the colony's nectar processing rate, but also its nectar intake rate.