The Waggle Dance Is Going out of Style With Some Honey Bees

The Waggle Dance Is Going out of Style With Some Honey Bees

If you’ve ever studied the behavior of bees, you may have learned that some species use a “waggle dance” to communicate with hive mates about the location of food sources. About 10 out of 500 bee species are known to dance—but it appears to be going out of style, and humans may be the cause.

Biologists at two universities—the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany—studied the waggle dance, expecting that when bees were deprived of dance information, they would make less honey and their hives would suffer.

Surprisingly, they found that without the waggle dance, bee hives actually functioned more efficiently. Bees that lost their groove collected more food and made more honey. Instead of sitting back and watching the show for clues as to where high-quality food was located, the bees simply went out and sought out food independently, resulting in higher honey yields.

The biologists believe that human-induced changes to the environment are making the waggle dance passé, as the information it provides becomes less relevant. When humans plant flowering crops, food is easy to find in spring, but in winter it becomes more difficult to forage. The scientists hypothesize that as a result of these seasonal fluctuations, dancing isn’t always worth the expenditure of energy. Bees seem to be able to adapt to changing conditions quickly and ignore dances that aren’t useful.

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