Archive for April, 2012
Honey bees that dance to give directions to flowers make more errors when performing horizontally due to gravity, say researchers.
By studying the video footage, Dr Couvillon found that bees dancing vertically on the honeycomb made few "errors", repeating identical runs throughout the dance.
But bees dancing on the horizontal had more scattered runs.
"They have a hard time when they're dancing horizontally – the angles that they dance repeatedly are very different," Dr Couvillon told BBC Nature.
She explained that due to these errors a more holistic approach was needed to understand the message contained in horizontal dances.
Although the individual runs contained errors, an average calculated from all of the runs still provided accurate directions.
Dr Couvillon suggested that the inconsistencies could be attributed to gravity; when the bees are vertical on the comb they are aligned with the downward force but dancing horizontally requires more effort.
"If you were a rock climber and I asked you to get something to your right, at 90 degrees, it would be more difficult than getting something straight ahead of you," she explained.
The results feed into an ongoing debate in the scientific community over whether the variation in waggle dances happens because bees are communicating a general area, not a specific flower, or simply because they are trying their best in difficult circumstances.
"There's no reason why a bee would need to introduce scatter into a dance," said Dr Couvillon.
"I do think the bees are challenged but I still think they're pretty good at what they're doing."