Thursday, September 1, 2022

Hive Talk: Communication Between Honey Bees

Personally, my favorite part about beekeeping is watching the bees interact with each other in the hive. 

From building comb, feeding brood, protecting the hive, and making food, a bee hive operates like a well oiled and very efficient machine. This cannot occur without proper communication.

Honey bees have two main ways of communicating to the other bees in the hive.  

The Waggle Dance is the way bees tell their fellow foragers about food sources nearby. The worker bee will walk in a straight line angled in the same way the food source is in relation to the sun.  The distance of the nectar source is communicated by how long the worker walks in that line. The excitedness of the dance is related to how plentiful the food source is. The full dance makes a figure eight. 

Example of the waggle dance

Honey bees also communicate through pheromones. Pheromones are natural chemicals that are excreted to evoke a response within the same species. Honey bees have one of the most complex pheromone systems in nature. Honey bees use pheromone communication in every aspect of their life.  For example. the alarm pheromone is used to tell guardian bees that the hive is being threatened, and needs to be protected. It is said that the alarm pheromone smells like bananas. 

Could you imagine communicating solely through movement and scent? Honey bee communication is just one of the few things that make the insect absolutely amazing. 

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