Thursday, 3 August 2006

The Round and Waggle Dances of the Honey Bee: One Dance or Two?

Kathryn E. Gardner1, Thomas D. Seeley2, and Nick Calderone1. (1) Entomology, Cornell University, Comstock Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, (2) Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Seeley G. Mudd Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853

Through a series of seminal experiments, Karl von Frisch decoded the dance language of the honey bee. Since then, it has been widely accepted that there are two distinct types of dances: the round dance, for advertising profitable food sources less than 50m away, and the waggle dance, for announcing food sources more than 50m away. These two dances are usually considered separate entities, two “words” in the bees’ language, mainly because of the apparent lack of directional information in the round dance. However, recent work suggests that round dances may contain directional information, blurring the line between round and waggle dances. We investigated the distinction between the round and waggle dances by training honey bees to feeders at varying distances from the hive and video recording and analyzing the subsequent dances. For every dance, the following components were measured: (1) waggle phase duration, (2) form and pattern of dancer movement during a circuit, (3) angular orientation of individual waggle phases, and (4) divergence angle (the angle between the directions of sequential waggle phases). Our data suggest that information about direction is encoded the same way in the round dance as in the waggle dance – the waggle-run direction relative to vertical indicates the food-source direction relative to the sun’s azimuth, although there is more ‘noise’ in the directional component of the round dance than the waggle dance This study shows that that the round dance and the waggle dance are parts of a continuum, that there is no abrupt switch between the two, and that it is most meaningful to view the bees as having just one (adjustable) recruitment signal: the waggle dance.

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