It has been said ‘dancers don’t need wings to fly’…but these dancers do!
Bees work together for the good of the colony. Part of this intertwined existence is to forage and find food resources for the hive as a whole. The way bees share this knowledge with each other is to perform a dance.
If the bee performs a round dance it shows the other bees that the food source is nearby- usually 25-100 meters. It does not give directions. As she walks in a circle, the scout bee (type of worker bee) may give a little waggle. The length of this waggle will indicate how good the food source is.
If the food source is further away the bees will perform the waggle dance. This figure eight dance can show other bees both the distance (or amount of energy required) and the direction in which to find the flowering plants. Distance is communicated by how long it takes to do one circuit of the waggle dance. The direction is indicated when the bee is doing the straight part of the dance. If she waggles with her face pointed upwards then she is indicating that the food source is in the direction of the sun. The waggle dance can also show direction angles in relation to the sun.
Bees collect both nectar and pollen – specialising in one at a time. The scout bee will look for the best quality food source available and will collect some to take back to the hive. She will then share some of this with the other worker bees – a bit like try before you buy! This may help entice them to follow her dance directions to the source. It is a great way to mobilize a large force of bees quickly and can help to ensure a good collection of pollen or nectar while flowers are in bloom.
Quick dances indicate that the food source is nearby, slower dances indicate that food sources are further away.
Scout bees also give off a scent that indicates what the flower and nectar source is.
These dance routines are clever methods of communication that help to ensure that the bees have access to good food sources.