Honey Bee Communication

Honey Bee Communication

For a beehive to function successfully, communication amongst the different bees is crucial. For instance, when a queen bee decides to move to another area (swarm), she somehow has to convey that to approximately 20,000 other bees.

Honey bees communicate through a variety of methods, but the most common methods are “body language” and pheromones (odors)

One of the greatest needs for communication in a beehive comes when finding food for the colony. To help with this, honey bees have developed two different responsibilities among worker bees in regards to food production: Scout bees and forager bees. These bees use various “body language” techniques to communicate with one another.

The job of the scout bee is very straightforward: find sources of food for the forager bees to forage and communicate the location and details of that food source to the forager bees. Once the scout bees have found a good food source, they return to the bee hive and give the information to the forager bees by way of a dance. See the video below to see a scout bee do the “waggle dance”:

Once the forager bees receive directions from the scout bees, they leave the hive to start foraging at the food source. Honey bees recognize and naturally put out different pheromones to convey certain messages. For example, when a honey bee stings someone, the stinger embeds itself in the victim’s skin, effectively pulling out most of the bee’s internal organs. This releases a pheromone that notifies all nearby bees that an “intruder” or “attacker” has been detected and that more defending bees are needed. Thus, if you get stung by a honey bee near an active beehive, you’ll likely notice up to a couple hundred other defender bees coming straight to you because they smell the pheromone let of by the previous bees’ stinger. So if you are stung by a honey bee, extricate yourself from the area immediately because there are likely other defending honey bees on their way.

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