Dance precision of Apis florea—clues to the evolution of the honeybee dance language?
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All honeybee species make use of the waggle dance to communicate the direction and distance to both food sources and potential new nest sites. When foraging, all species face an identical problem: conveying information about profitable floral patches. However, profound differences in nesting biology (some nest in cavities while others nest in the open, often on a branch or a cliff face) may mean that species have different requirements when dancing to advertise new nest sites. In cavity nesting species, nest sites are a precise location in the landscape: usually a small opening leading to a cavity in a hollow tree. Dances for cavities therefore need to be as precise as possible. In contrast, when the potential nest site comprises a tree or perhaps seven a patch of trees, precision is less necessary. Similarly, when a food patch is advertised, dances need not be very precise, as floral patches are often large, unless they are so far away that recruits need more precise information to be able to locate them. In this paper, we study the dance precision of the open-nesting red dwarf bee Apis florea. By comparing the precision of dances for food sources and nest sites, we show that A. florea workers dance with the same imprecision irrespective of context. This is in sharp contrast with the cavity-nesting Apis mellifera that increases the precision of its dance when advertising a potential new home. We suggest that our results are in accordance with the hypothesis that the honeybees’ dance communication initially evolved to convey information about new nest sites and was only later adapted for the context of foraging.
KeywordsApis florea Dance language Dance precision Foraging Nest-site selection Tuned-error hypothesis
We would like to thank members of the social insects lab at Sydney University and Sharoni Shafir for constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. Sorasak Nak-eam collected most of the colonies we studied. We thank the Department of Biology at Naresuan University for the use of their facilities. MB is supported by the Australian Research Council. Additional financial support to MB and BPO was obtained from the University of Sydney.
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