Feb 28, 2012

Deciphering The Honey Bee's Waggle Dance

Johnny Mason, February 28, 2012:

The honey bee’s waggle dance can be a mysterious thing. For the uninitiated, the waggle dance is a very specific figure eight movement, or dance, performed by a bee that communicates to the other bees where a particular resource can be found. The resource could be something like nectar, water or even potential new housing.

But, what exactly does it mean when she’s shaking her groove thang? First off, the “waggle” part of the dance; the longer the duration, the further the distance to the reported resource. So, if you see more of a circular dance or extremely brief waggle, the bee is telling her sisters that the item they seek is very nearby. If the movement is longer, they have some flying to do! It’s actually been figured that each 75 milliseconds of the waggle indicate a 100 meter distance.

The only constants that dictate a honey bee’s internal compass are gravity and the sun. If you see a waggle run directly in a vertical motion on the comb, she is telling everyone to fly directly in the direction of the sun. If you see more of a right or left movement, the bees are being directed to follow that angle in relation to the sun when leaving the hive. Another very cool part of this is that she can use her internal clock to report the position of the sun’s movement while even in the hive!

There’s more to it, but that’s it in a nutshell. Yet another reason honey bees are amazing creatures! Now that I’ve thoroughly confused you, check out the video below for a more thorough video explanation of bee booty shaking. Awwwww, yeah!