A successful forager communicates rewarding food sources to her nest mates via the tail dance. This behavior can be considered one of the most fascinating phenomena in the insect kingdom.
Researchers from the Julius Maximilians University of Würzburg (JMU) and the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore, India, used ccc's utilius fairplay 5 software to analyze recorded videos of tail dances and use the data to infer where bees gather.
Insight: Bees dance in dialect
After more than 70 years, a great mystery of zoology could be solved: Honey bees actually use different dance dialects in their tail dance. Which "dialect" has developed among the insects is related to the radius of action in which they gather food around the hive.
The existence of dance dialects in honeybees had already been established in the 1940s by zoologists Karl von Frisch and Martin Lindauer, who played a key role in bee research in Würzburg. Later experiments, however, raised doubts about the existence of the dialects. The new results now prove that Frisch and Lindauer were right. The two researchers were also correct in their explanation of why the dance dialects exist at all.
The research team conducted experiments with three bee species in southern India:
- Eastern honeybees (Apis cerana) fly about a kilometer away from the nest.
- the dwarf honeybees (Apis florea),fly up to 2.5 kilometers,
- in the case of giant honeybees (Apis dorsata) up the three kilometers.
The opposite is true for the increase in the duration of dance. For example, if a food source is 800 meters away, an Eastern honeybee will have a significantly longer run than a dwarf honeybee, which in turn will have a longer run than a giant honeybee. Thus, to communicate an identical distance to food, each species uses its own dance dialect.