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Bees are surprisingly like people - Input Junkie
September 18th, 2009
05:05 pm


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Bees are surprisingly like people
The waggle dance conveys less information to bees than to scientists

In one study, Grüter and his colleague Walter Farina of the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina found that among bees that attend to a dance, 93 per cent ignore the instructions and head to a food source they already know about (Proceedings of the Royal Society B, vol 275, p 1321). Similarly, bees often seem unable to follow the instructions. Some watch more than 50 runs and make several sorties out of the hive but never find the food.

The waggle dance also turns out to be much less important to foraging success than has been suggested. Hives in which the honeycombs are laid horizontally, preventing the bees from indicating direction properly, don't fare any worse than others, except when natural food sources are severely depleted.

"I taught them, but they didn't learn it", says prominent waggle dancer.

(4 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:September 19th, 2009 12:49 am (UTC)

Of course, this raises the question of why they do it. I wouldn't have guessed that bees would have the same urge to, say, show off in a bid for social status the way hairless apes sometimes do.
[User Picture]
Date:September 19th, 2009 08:43 am (UTC)


...the ability is still in beta testing and the fact it does occasionally help in marginal situations without hurting otherwise explains its persistence? Like that bone-spur that pandas have as the next best thing for a thumb to help eat bamboo?
[User Picture]
Date:September 19th, 2009 10:51 am (UTC)

Re: perhaps...

I like to think the bees enjoy it.

I'm not convinced evolution is terribly efficient.
[User Picture]
Date:September 19th, 2009 08:20 pm (UTC)

Re: perhaps...

In a way it isn't. It is basically trial and error with no guiding intelligence after all. What makes it work is the ability to conduct many, many trials in parallel, and keep, well, let's be honest here, the results that aren't absolute failures is perhaps more accurate than the results that work. Eventually, the results that work dominate the population, but the not-absolute failures are likely to still be around.
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