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  • Writer's pictureThree Lil Birds Farm

Bee communication

Honeybees communicate through smell and visual cues. These visual cues include dances that help to communicate food source locations. The most well-known dance, is the waggle dance.


One signal that is not very well-known (I didn't really know much about it until I started this position) is the stop signal. This signal is used by returning foragers to warn its fellow bees to avoid certain locations. The forager will buzz and head bump a bee doing a waggle dance to recruit foragers to certain food sources. The stop signal is thought to be performed after a forager is attacked or the food source is no longer available.

For this experiment, we used a colony in an observation hive. One side of the observation hive has a door that we can open to get a closer look at the bees.

For a few days before, we trained bees to a feeder not too far from the hive entrance. These bees were tagged with color and numerical tags. Over a period of 3 hours, multiple bees were "attacked" and observed using a microphone in the observation hive. Look at the old fashioned RadioShack amplifier! The attack was simulated by a leg pull using a pair on forceps.

This experiment will occur over multiple days next week to allow for a better understanding of the data. Today's data showed an equivalent number of bees performing stop signals after an attack, to those that don't perform the signal after an attack.


Stay tuned for next week's experiments. We will be starting our aggression assays which should be fun.

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