In their search for food, honeybees and bumblebees fly far and wide searching for the best flowers (loaded with nectar) – and when a bee finds what she’s looking for, she returns to the hive to share her find with the other bees by performing a complicated “dance.”
Why do the bees dance? In the 1940s, Austrian biologist, Karl Von Frisch, devised an experiment to find out. When the bee arrives back at the hive, she draws the attention of the other bees, and begins moving her body, especially vibrating her abdomen, in a specific set of movements. This “dance” resembles a figure eight as she moves back and forth, over and over. The duration of her dance indicates how far away the flowers are, and she indicates the direction to the flowers by the angle of her dance related to the sun. (The Waggle Dance of the Honeybee)
Honeybees also can warn their nest mates about dangers they have encountered. If a bee is doing the waggle dance, another bee who had previously encountered danger (such as a wasp or spider) at the location being “described” by the waggling bee, will often approach the dancing bee and butt her head against the dancer to cause a momentary “freeze” – which is seen as a warning by the other bees. Learn more about this discovery by James Nieh, a professor of the University of California-San Diego at The Bee Dance.