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The Relationship of Sound Production During the Waggle Dance of the Honey Bee to the Distance of the Food Source

[1959  Wenner, A.M.  The relationship of sound production during the waggle dance of the honey bee to the distance of the food source.  Bull. Entomological Soc. of America.  5:142.]

1959. Bulletin of the Entomological Society of America. Vol. 5, No. 3: A paper received after the program was in press:

Sect. C-b. The Relationship of Sound Production during the Waggle Dance of the Honey Bee to the Distance of the Food Source. A.M. Wenner, Dept. of Zool., Univ. of Mich., Ann Arbor.

Tape recordings and audiospectrographs have been made of sounds produced during waggle dances of honey bees to determine any correlation between distance of the food source and sound production during the straight run of the dance. The sound is not produced by the waggling of the abdomen.

University Microfilms, Inc.
(L.C. Card No. Mic 61-1806)

SOUND PRODUCTION DURING THE WAGGLE DANCE OF THE HONEY BEE

Adrian M. Wenner, Ph. D.
University of Michigan, 1961

Although the waggle dance of the honey bee (Apis mellifera Linnaeus) has been investigated as a means by which the location of food sources is communicated among individuals in a hive, the possible use of sound by these communicating bees has heretofore not been investigated. In this study, Italian honey bees (Apis mellifera ligustica Spinola) were found to produce a pulsed sound of approximately 200 cps during the straight run part of their waggle dance. Since the ratio of the sound pulse rate to the waggle rate is approximately 2.5 to 1, the sound is not an incidental result of the waggling by the dancing bee.

A study of the relationship between the length of time sound is produced and the distance of the food from the hive was made by placing sugar syrup at various distances from the hive, individually marking bees as they collected this syrup, and tape recording the sound produced by these bees as they danced in the hive. Audiospectrographs were made of this sound, and the various elements of the dance were then measured to determine how much time was spent in sound production during the straight run, in lack of sound production during the circle run, and during the complete run (total of the straight run time and the circle run time) of this dance.

The complete run time, the straight run sound production time, and the number of sound pulses were all graphically found to be more closely correlated with the distance of the food source from the hive than the circle run time. The straight run sound production time and the number of sound pulses produced during the straight run were graphically found to be inseparable.

The results of an analysis of variation and a consideration of the effect of wind on the signal given by dancing bees indicates that the average complete run time is largely a sum of the average straight run time and average circle run time.

The circle run time had a significant positive correlation with the distance of the food from the hive. Since the circle run time shows an inverse correlation with the straight run time at any one distance, a longer time spent on the straight run is evidently not responsible for the positive correlation of the circle run time with distance. No explanation could be given for this positive correlation.

The following four components (or a combination of any of these four) of the honey bee waggle dance now remain as best possibilities for conveying the information about the distance of the food source from the hive:

a) the duration of waggling during the straight run
b) the number of waggles produced during the straight run
c) the duration of sound production during the straight run
d) the number of sound pulses produced during the straight run

The analysis of wind effects on the dance revealed that bees signal the flight time out to the food source, not the flight time of the return trip.

The interpretation of the results of the step-experiments (“Stufenversuchen”) of von Frisch and co-workers (a series of experiments testing the ability of bees to perform in response to signals given by dancing bees) is questionable, since a performance much poorer than that given by the standard deviation of the results, coupled with bees visiting more than one of the unevenly spaced stations, would give similar results.

The possible use of sound by honey bees in communicating the distance of a food source from the hive is discussed.