Polish Boffins Discover New Forms Of Bee Chit-Chat

Story By: Lee BullenSub-EditorAlex Cope,  Agency:Real Press

Polish scientists have discovered new communication patterns among bees that include workers using their wings to point out that the queen has been laying too few eggs.

Using cameras registering 3,000 frames per second, which are able to show the bees’ movement 100 times slower than real time, experts at the University of Agriculture in Krakow (URK) found new behaviours that go beyond the known waggle dance and use of pheromones.

Scientists learned that in some circumstances, before the drones exit the hive, worker bees use their wings to communicate that the queen has been laying too few eggs.

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Professor Adam Tofilski told the Polish Press Agency (PAP): “We managed to spot bee behaviours that were never recorded before. There’s a high chance that we might understand them.”

Scientists hope to learn how to detect when bees get ready for swarming which normally means losses for beekeepers.

Professor Tofilski said the waggle dance was discovered as a means of communication among bees decades ago.

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When a worker discovers a good source of nectar or pollen, it will return to the hive to perform a waggle dance to let others know where it is.

Bees also spread pheromones in the hive to communicate, such as the Queen Mandibular Pheromone (QMP) that the queen feeds to her attendants who then share it with the rest of the colony.

If the scent disappears, worker bees understand that as a message that a surrogate queen needs to be reared from one of the larvae.

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It also known that bees communicate via vibrations and entomologists occasionally spot bees grabbing each other by the head and shaking one another.

Professor Tofilski said: “When we observed that in slow-motion, we saw that fine movement of wings accompanies this behaviour.”

Bees also flap their wings to communicate with the queen, and attendants can express a need for the queen to lay more eggs.

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The professor hopes that microphones can be set up in a beehive one day soon so that beekeepers are notified about swarming and have time to split the colony into two before it takes place.

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