Monday, November 1, 2021

The Fascinating Languages of Honey Bees

Honey bees have many ways to communicate with each other. In this month’s article, we will cover how honey bees talk in the hive and communicate where food is!

Pheromones - The Honey Bees’ Perfume

Here a worker bee extends her abdomen to warn the colony of a threat.

The first way honey bees communicate is through smell. The two main odors are for alarm and the queen bee. The alarm smell helps the guard bees to quickly tell the rest of the colony that an intruder is about to attack. The colony in response will come to that location to provide assistance to protect their hive. Generally, bees will respond to alarm pheromone only at or near the colony, not in the field. Honey bees also use this scent to help her sister locate the hive, food, and water. The queen bee produces a unique smell that tells the colony that all is well. If the queen were to die, that smell would be missing and the worker bees would begin to make a new queen from a female egg.

The mixture of pheromones plus the distinctive queen signature pheromone, mix with food odors to give each bee colony a distinctive hive odor.

Waggle Dances - Where’s the food?

Honey bees use the sun as a point of reference to find flowers.

Honey bees communicate where resources are by performing a type of dance on the bee comb. When she first discovers a new field of flowers, she will remember exactly where it is in relation to the beehive. She takes a sample of the nectar back to the hive to share with her sisters. As she arrives back to the hive, she makes her way to the dancefloor, eager to tell the colony about the resource that she found! By moving in a figure-8 pattern at a specific angle on the comb, she tells the colony how far away the flowers are and which direction the bees should head. She will also wiggle her abdomen to show the quality of the nectar or pollen that she found.