Thursday, April 14

the dance

The foraging bee, having got rid of her load, begins to perform a kind of "round dance." On the part of the comb where she is sitting she starts whirling around in a narrow circle, constantly changing her direction, turning now right, now left, dancing clockwise and anti-clockwise in quick succession, describing between one and two circles in each direction. This dance is performed among the thickest bustle of the hive. What makes it so particularly striking and attractive is the way it infects the surrounding bees; those sitting next to the dancer start tripping after her, always trying to keep their outstretched feelers in close contact with the tip of her abdomen. They take part in each of her manoeuvrings so that the dancer herself, in her madly wheeling movements, appears to carry behind her a perpetual comet's tail of bees. In this way they keep whirling round and round, sometimes for a few seconds, sometimes for as long as half a minute, or even a full minute, before the dancer suddenly stops, breaking loose from her followers to disgorge a second or even a third droplet of honey while settling on one, or two other parts of the comb, each time concluding with a similar dance. This done, she hurries towards the entrance hole again to take off for her particular feeding-place, from where she is sure to bring back another load; the same performance being enacted at each subsequent return.

-- Karl von Frisch Dancing Bees: An Account of the Life and Senses of the Honeybee