Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 411–418 | Cite as

Eating locally: dance decoding demonstrates that urban honey bees in Brighton, UK, forage mainly in the surrounding urban area

  • Mihail GarbuzovEmail author
  • Roger Schürch
  • Francis L.W. Ratnieks


Urbanization is increasing worldwide. Urban habitats often support considerable biodiversity and so are of conservation value, even though they are highly modified ecosystems. Urban parks and gardens are rich in flowers that provide food for pollinators, including bees. Here, we use waggle dance decoding to investigate foraging by 3 honey bee hives located in the city of Brighton, UK, over almost an entire foraging season, April to October. Waggle dances were recorded using video cameras and decoded during framewise playback on a computer by measuring the angle and duration of the waggle phase. Foraging was mostly local (mean monthly distances 0.5–1.2 km) and mostly within the surrounding urban area (monthly means 78–92 %) versus the countryside (closest distance 2.2 km) even though this was well within the honey bee maximum foraging range (c. 12 km). These distances were lower than those from a previous study for hives located in a rural area 4.5 km away. Honey bees are very sensitive to foraging economics and foragers make waggle dances only after visiting high-quality feeding locations. Low distances advertised by dances, therefore, indicate sufficient forage nearby and show that urban areas can support honey bees year round. As a corollary, however, urban bees may provide little pollination service to agriculture especially in spring, which had the lowest foraging distances and is when the most economically important animal-pollinated UK crops, apple and oilseed rape, are in bloom.


Floral resources Pollination Urban ecosystems Waggle dance 



MG’s PhD, of which this study is a part, was funded by The Body Shop Foundation (Award Reference: MAIN/11/00865). RS is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant PA00P3_139731). We thank Dan Danahar, Rob Sandercock and the Dorothy Stringer School for housing our urban observation hives, Jodie Baker and Elizabeth Samuelson for helping to decode waggle dances and Margaret Couvillon for providing comments that helped to improve earlier draft of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mihail Garbuzov
    • 1
    Email author
  • Roger Schürch
    • 2
  • Francis L.W. Ratnieks
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Apiculture & Social Insects (LASI), School of Life SciencesUniversity of SussexFalmerUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.Laboratory of Social Evolution, School of Life SciencesUniversity of SussexFalmerUnited Kingdom

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