Researchers build a verb dictionary of 1500 dance movements that bees use to communicate with each other while flying in formation
- Scientists in Minnesota studied two bee colonies in reconstructed prairie land
- They discovered that the bees used a complex system of dancing ‘toddlers’ to communicate
- The bees communicated about pollen location, direction, distance and more
A team of scientists from the University of Minnesota has created a verb dictionary of over 1500 unique dance movements that bees use to communicate with each other.
The list has been drawn up as part of a larger study on how land managers can prepare natural habitats to better cater for bees whose populations have declined rapidly in recent years.
The team, led by Morgan Carr-Markell from the University of Minnesota, brought two large bee colonies to two different locations in Minnesota where previously developed land had been converted into prairie land with a mix of native and non-native plants.
Researchers in Minnesota saw two different bee colonies using more than 1500 different ‘waggle’ dance movements to communicate with each other while flying in formation
The team originally wanted to study how bees responded to different types of pollen sources to help land managers find an optimal mix of plants to support new bee populations.
Seeing the bees moving through the landscape, they noticed unusual behavior, which the team described as “waddling dancing,” according to a report in Newsweek.
These wagon dances were used when groups of bees flew outside the hive, usually in an eight formation.
The waggons were used to communicate with other members of the formation, indicating a range of information including where to turn, the direction of the nearest pollen source, how far away it is, and how generally valuable to view the pollen from the plant .
In total, the team has cataloged 1,528 unique waggle dance movements, showing an unexpectedly complex and nuanced communication system between the two bee colonies.
The bees were able to communicate a range of information by simply shaking their hind, including when they had to turn, how far away a pollen source was and what overall quality the pollen source would be
“What I find most interesting about bees is their communication,” said Carr-Markell.
“So I wanted to be able to use that to help land managers who are interested in planting bees and to provide them with local information.”
By analyzing bee communication, the team was able to demonstrate that the bees were most attracted to plants that were native to the surrounding Minnesota prairies.
By following bee movements and communication, the team was able to demonstrate that they preferred pollen sources that were native to the prairie and not to newer non-native plant species
They discovered that the most prized pollen plants were native to the prairies, including goldenrod and prairie clovers.
In the meantime, parts of the prairie populated by non-native plants were assessed by bees as slightly lower priority targets.
“Our results suggest that it include certain native prairie [flowers] in reconstructed prairies, chances may be that colonies that will use prairies as important food sources during the period of greatest colony growth and honey production, “the study says.
WHAT IS THE HONEYBEE CRISIS?
According to Greenpeace, honey bees, both domestic and wild, are responsible for around 80 percent of global pollination.
But the bee colony collapses all over the world on their vital work.
Bees die from a combination of pesticides, habitat destruction, drought, nutritional deficiency, global warming and air pollution among other factors.
The global bee crisis may be resolved if dangerous pesticides are eliminated, wild habitats are preserved and ecological agriculture is restored, according to Greenpeace (photo of the stock)
Greenpeace has reported, “It comes down to knowing that people are largely responsible for the two most prominent causes: pesticides and habitat loss.”
This is important for a number of reasons, including the amount of worker bees put into our food production.
Bees pollinate vegetables, nuts and fruit. Of the best human food crops, no fewer than 70 out of 100 are pollinated by the creatures, which account for no less than 90 percent of global food.
Greenpeace has proposed the following solutions to the problem:
- The conservation of wild habitats to protect the health of pollinators
- The restoration of ecological agriculture
- The elimination of the world’s most dangerous pesticides