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Monday, April 23, 2012

Gravity disturbs bees' dancing

18 April 2012 

Gravity disturbs bees' dancing

By Ella Davies
Reporter, BBC Nature

Honey bees that dance to give directions to flowers make more errors when performing horizontally due to gravity, say researchers.

Female foragers perform "waggle runs" on the hive's honeycomb for other bees.

The intricate movements display the direction and distance of the flowers from the hive.

Researchers from the University of Sussex are "eavesdropping" on bees to find out more about where they feed in Britain.

Dr Margaret Couvillon has spent three years decoding the bees' unique method of communication.

Using observation hives with a glass wall, researchers have filmed the bees without disturbing their natural behaviour.

In honey bee society, forager bees scout out flower resources and return to the hive to perform a detailed dance made up of "waggle runs" on the honeycomb that communicate direction and distance.

The angle the waggle is performed at communicates the position of the flower relative to the sun, while the duration of the waggle tells nest mates how far away the flower is from the hive.

Foragers repeat these runs in a figure of eight with the number of repetitions signifying the quality of the resource.

"For a really good resource she'll repeat it 70 to 100 times," explained Dr Couvillon.

By studying the video footage, Dr Couvillon found that bees dancing vertically on the honeycomb made few "errors", repeating identical runs throughout the dance. (...)

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