‘Talkative’ as a bee

Polish scientists claim that honey bees may communicate with each other in more ways than previously thought and that they do it quite frequently.

Honey bees in a beehive from time to time vibrate their wings at a certain frequency, which may be a form of communication, scientists from the Agricultural University of Kraków believe.

“This motion can’t be observed with a naked eye. Neither can the bees see it, because it is completely dark inside beehives. We think that these motions create vibrations that other bees can sense,” said Professor Adam Tofilski, who completed the observations with Dr Sylvia Łopuch, both from the Agricultural University of Kraków.

They have been watching bees using high-speed cameras capable of recording fast-moving objects. By using this method they have noticed that bees wandering around in beehives make very frequent but barely noticeable moves with their wings. The wings’ range of movement is less than one millimetre.

“Now we will concentrate on observations of individual bees to check in what circumstances they move their wings like this. Maybe we will be able to tell what information they pass this way. We will search for patterns in the sequences of these movements in different situations,” explained professor Tofilski.

Scientists already know that honey bees can inform each other of danger using chemical substances called feromones. They can also direct other bees to a food source by performing a special “dance”. These high frequency wing movements would be yet another form of their communication making honey bees quite a ‘talkative’ species.