To Silence Bees

Honey bee

Honey bee

Foraging bees return to the hive and dance to communicate the location of flowers to other foragers. The communication occurs when the dancing bees transmit vibrations to the honey comb with their thoracic muscles.

However, the movement of the thorax of bees and flies depends on the length of the wings. A thorax will vibrate faster with shorter wings than with wings that are normal length. The faster wing beat affects the pitch of the sound produced. Faster wing beats have a higher pitch (higher frequency). The same effect is seen with bees that are mutants for the “diminutive wing” trait. The thorax of the mutant bees beats faster and produces a higher pitch.

Does the change in pitch affect the ability of foragers to recruit? Studies have found* that clipping the wings of foragers reduces or eliminates their ability to attract recruits by dancing. Similarly, bees with “diminutive wings” fail to attract recruits. The higher pitch is not recognized as “communication by other foragers. To silence bees, clip their wings.

*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, communication. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to To Silence Bees

  1. Pingback: To Silence Bees | Living With Insects Blog

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