Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 10, pp 1589–1597 | Cite as

Floral scents affect the distribution of hive bees around dancers

  • Paula C. Díaz
  • Christoph Grüter
  • Walter M. Farina
Original Paper


Floral scents are important information cues used to organize foraging-related tasks in honeybees. The waggle dance, apart from encoding spatial information about food sources, might facilitate the transfer of olfactory information by increasing the dissipation of volatiles brought back by successful foragers. By assuming that food scents are more intensive on specific body parts of returning foragers, i.e., the posterior legs of pollen foragers and mouthparts of nectar foragers, we quantified the interactions between hive mates and foragers during dances advertising different types of food sources. For natural sources, a higher proportion of hive mates contacted the hind legs of pollen dancers (where the pollen loads were located) with their heads compared to non-pollen dancers. On the other hand, the proportion of head-to-head contacts was higher for non-pollen foragers during the waggle runs. When the food scent was manipulated, dancers collecting scented sugar solution had a higher proportion of head-to-head contacts and a lower proportion around their hind legs compared to dancers collecting unscented solution. The presence of food odors did not affect in-hive behaviors of dancers, but it increased the number of trophallaxes in-between waggle runs (i.e., during circle phases). These results suggest that the honeybee dance facilitates the olfactory information transfer between incoming foragers and hive mates, and we propose that excitatory displays in other social insect species serve the same purpose. While recent empirical and theoretical findings suggested that the colony level foraging benefits of the spatial information encoded in the waggle dance vary seasonally and with habitats, the role of the dance as a compound signal not only indicating the presence of a profitable resource but also amplifying the information transfer regarding floral odors may be important under any ecological circumstances.


Apis mellifera Waggle dance Floral scent Information transfer Trophallaxis 



We are indebted with A. Arenas and H. Verna for technical assistance. This study was supported by funds from ANPCYT (01-12310), University of Buenos Aires (X 036), and CONICET to WMF. PCD is supported by a CONICET fellowship, and CG is supported by the Verein deutschschweizerischer und rätoromanischer Bienenfreunde, commission for travel grants of the SANW, Dr. De Giacomi Stiftung, Janggen-Pöhn Stiftung, Basler Stiftung für biologische Forschung. The present study complies with the current laws of the state country in which experiments were performed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paula C. Díaz
    • 1
  • Christoph Grüter
    • 1
    • 2
  • Walter M. Farina
    • 1
  1. 1.Grupo de Estudio de Insectos Sociales, IFIBYNE-CONICET, Departamento de Biodiversidad y Biología Experimental, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y NaturalesUniversidad de Buenos AiresBuenos AiresArgentina
  2. 2.Division of Behavioral EcologyUniversity of BernHinterkappelenSwitzerland

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