Sunday, April 25, 2010

Beehavior: The "Waggle Dance"

Honeybees are considered to possess the most complex communication system, aside from primates, in the natural world. The discovery of their "dance language" was recognized as the first clear example of a non-human system that offers an abstract representation of the real world.

It has been shown that the more vigorously a bee "waggles" during this sharing of information, the more attractive the food source. Inferior food sources inspire less energetic waggling.

How does a "dancer" attract an audience from among 50,000 bees in the near-total darkness of the hive? Experiments have proven that specific areas on the comb are assigned as "dance floors" with pheromone markers, so that bees within the hive know exactly where to go to find foragers who have discovered a desirable food source. In addition, a dancing bee attracts attention from others nearby through the vibrations carried by the comb structure itself. When they feel the comb vibrating under their feet, bees know that someone is communicating directions, and they need simply to go to the predesignated dance area on the comb to find the dancer and receive those instructions.

In this video, the bees surrounding the dancer are using their antennae to track the dancer's movements. After following the dance for a few cycles, they can figure out both the direction and the distance they need to fly in order to find the newly-discovered food source.

Much like bees, I often have thoughts and feelings that can only be expressed through dance...

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