How Do Honey Bees Obtain Information About Direction by Following Dances?

  • Axel Michelsen


Several strategies (touch, vision, hearing, substrate vibrations, and air flows) have been proposed for how follower bees obtain information about the distance and direction announced in waggle dances. This review deals with the sounds and air flows generated by dancing bees. The vibrating wings of the dancer act as dipoles, and the surprisingly large sound pressures and air flows decrease rapidly with distance, thus restricting the possible range of communication. The movements and air flows have been mimicked in a robot dancer, which was able to direct follower bees to positions in the field, but caused less recruitment than live dancers. Subsequent measurements with a laser technique showed that the oscillating air flows caused by the wing vibration and wagging movements are probably too complicated to transmit the information about the direction to the target. However, the laser studies showed that the vibrating wings could cause a jet air flow behind the dancer’s abdomen. The jet is generated by the vibrating wings, and it is so narrow in a plane parallel to the comb that it may provide information about direction to follower bees located behind the dancer. Measurements with hot wire anemometers confirmed the existence of the narrow jet behind live dancers. In addition, it was found that the narrow jets may exist together with a broad flow of air, which seems ideally suited for transporting dance pheromones. Both the narrow and broad flows can be switched on and off by the dancer, apparently by adjustments of the positions of the wings.


Particle Image Velocimetry Sound Pressure Particle Image Velocimetry Technique Waggle Dance High Speed Film 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Pascal = 94 dB SPL


Particle image velocimetry


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of BiologyUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdense MDenmark

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