Bee Sounds

Bee Hive

Bee Hive

The most well known bee sound is the buzzing of worker bees as they fly. However, bees make a number of other sounds for communication in the nest. Young queen bees make sounds that make the comb vibrate known as “piping”.*

When bees swarm, the queen leaves the hive with a swarm of workers to establish a new nesting site. The workers left behind raise multiple new queens that that make piping sounds by rapid contraction of the thoracic muscles without moving the wings. The first queen to leave her cell makes a piping sound called “tooting”. Queens not yet emerged from their cell respond by quacking. The first queen to emerge will seek the other queens and sting them to death if possible. However, worker bees are attracted to the sound of quacking and may protect quacking queens from the emerged female.

The first female to emerge from her cell may choose to leave the hive with her own swarm.  If quacking queens still in their cells can successfully survive until a tooting queen leaves the hive they have an opportunity to become a queen. However, as the numbers of workers in the hive decrease, the dynamics change and the tooting queen does not leave the hive with a swarm. Instead she seeks the quacking queens and stings them to death until she is the only remaining queen in the colony.

The tooting and quacking communications enable a honey bee colony to sequentially multiple swarms of workers, each with its own queen and potentially found multiple new colonies.

*WH Kirchner.  1993. Acoustical communication in honeybees. Apidologie 24: 297-307/.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in behavior, by jjneal, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Bee Sounds

  1. Pingback: Bee Sounds | Living With Insects Blog

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