Waggle dance shows how much bees like pollen

Waggle dance shows how much bees like pollen


By Alison Motluk GOOD pollen, like good chocolate, is a matter of taste. The same pollen that inspires some bees to dance passionately leaves others cold. Honey bees, Apis mellifera, use a complicated “waggle dance” to indicate the direction and quality of pollen they find to the rest of the hive. Keith Waddington and Mindy Nelson at the University of Miami at Coral Gables and Robert Page at the University of California at Davis set out to learn why some strains of honey bee collect far more pollen than others. The researchers allowed two strains to forage for an hour in a dish of pure pollen and for another hour in a dish of pollen mixed half-and-half with an odourless, nutrient-free substance. The foraging bees then reported back to the hive, where the researchers videotaped their waggle dance. Foragers indicate the quality of pollen they find by the number of 180-degree turns they do during the dance. The better the pollen, the more they turn. Both strains of bee recognised that pure pollen was better than the mixed stuff, but the strain that collected the most pollen rated both varieties more highly. In fact, the bees from that strain rated the impure pollen almost as highly as the other bees rated the pure variety, the researchers report in the current issue of Animal Behaviour (vol 56, p 35). “Some bees just value pollen more than others,” says Waddington. But exactly how they make their assessment is not clear, he says. “It’s easy to imagine how they would measure sugar concentration or volume of nectar,” he says,
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