Honey bees can detect the air-particle movements associated with airborne sounds
(Towne and Kirchner, 1989), and they do so using Johnston's organ, a chorodontal
organ in the antennal pedicel (Dreller and Kirchner, 1993a). Air-particle
oscillations cause the long, thin antennal flagellum to vibrate, and Johnston's
organ registers the movements. This sensory system, which is sensitive to air
vibrations up to about 500 Hz, is well suited to detect the 200- to 300-Hz sounds
produced by dancing bees (Kirchner et at., 1991; Kirchner, 1994), and this is
the only natural context, other than its possible use in the control of flight
(Heran, 1959), in which the sensory system is known to be used (Dreller and
Kirchner, 1993b). On these grounds, the ears might be considered "dance detectors."
This would be typical of particle-movement ears in insects, especially
Johnstons' organs, which generally respond best to a limited range of biologically
important frequencies, do not discriminate frequencies well, and usually
seem to be designed for and used in a single behavioral context.