All animals have unique ways of communicating with each other. Some use body language and eye contact, while others have vocal patterns. Honey bees have two primary methods of talking to one another: movement and odor. Bees use these behaviors to send messages throughout the colony, locate a nearby food source, and communicate other information. To learn more, check out our guide to understanding how honey bees communicate.
When a honey bee has a successful foraging trip, it will return to the hive with valuable information about food sources, a safe drinking hole, or other knowledge about the surrounding area. To communicate this information, the worker bee will dance. The most well-known dance has to do with locating food sources. When a bee dances for its fellow workers, it uses certain movements and angles its body a specific way in order to tell the others where it found nectar- and pollen-rich flowers.
There are two main food dances. The first, called a “round” dance, concerns nearby food sources—within about 50 meters of the hive. The honey bee will move in a series of narrow circles to let the other worker bees know the direction of the food. For a food source that’s further away from the hive, honey bees perform a “waggle” dance in a figure-eight pattern. This involves vibrating and buzzing with its wings—the intensity of this indicates just how far the food source is. The bee also angles its body in relation to the sun to point toward the food source.
Part of understanding how honey bees communicate is understanding how pheromones work. Pheromones are a chemical substance that bees produce to give signals to the rest of the colony. There are many kinds of pheromones that elicit several different responses. The first is an alert pheromone that bees use to communicate a nearby threat. Queen bees also produce special pheromones to help control the population. For example, if she releases a pheromone that tells the others she’s alive and healthy, it encourages the rest of the colony to stay productive for the hive.
Bees are fascinating creatures, and we learn more about them every day. If you’ve been swept up by the buzz about bees, you can learn more and even buy package bees for sale to start your own fulfilling career as a beekeeper.