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Direct Visual Observation of Wing Movements during the Honey Bee Waggle Dance

Abstract

Recruitment-related behaviours such as waggle dances enable honey bee foragers to inform their nestmates about the location of important resources. However, it is still not known how the information contained in a dance performed in the darkness of the nest is transferred to followers. Although, there are findings indicating that dancing honey bees produce airborne sounds which may convey the information, there has only been indirect evidence that moving wings are the source of these airborne sounds. In this study, honey bee dances were recorded using a high-speed camera in order to directly observe and precisely measure the frequency of wing beats and abdomen wags of dancers. Dancing bees moved their wings for 40.4% of the duration of a waggle run and for only 8.1% of the duration of a circle run. The episodes of wing movements consisted of one to five wing beats and were separated by intervals of motionless wings. The mean frequency of wing beats was 167.0 Hz and significantly differed depending on the number of wing beats in one episode (p < 0.001) and the position of the wings (p = 0.007). The mean frequency of abdomen wags was 14.6 Hz. The mean number of followers was 7.9 and significantly more of them gathered around the abdomens of dancers than around their heads and thoraxes (p = 0.001). The results of this study support the assumption that moving wings are the source of airborne sounds emitted during honey bee dances.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Łukasz Bednarz from EC Test Systems for technical assistance. We also thank the anonymous reviewers for their suggestions and comments. This study was funded by the National Science Centre under grant UMO-2013/10/E/NZ9/00682.

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Correspondence to Sylwia Łopuch.

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This study was funded by the National Science Centre under grant UMO-2013/10/E/NZ9/00682.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

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Łopuch, S., Tofilski, A. Direct Visual Observation of Wing Movements during the Honey Bee Waggle Dance. J Insect Behav 30, 199–210 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10905-017-9610-8

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Keywords

  • Airborne sounds
  • honey bees
  • waggle dance
  • high-speed camera