Tim Newlin

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The Dance of the Honeybee

Jitterbugging honeybees communicate through dance.
by Tim Newlin
Regular contributor to the Gazette
June 1, 2008


When bees buzz, they talk to each other, right? Wrong! Bees buzz because their wings flap so fast. They talk by dancing - and what a dance it is! The special jitterbug-like dance of the honey bee was first noticed in 1944 by Austrian naturalist Karl von Frisch.

Bees need to tell each other where to find flowers. To do this they perform a dance right at the entrance to the hive when they return. If the flowers are close by, they dance around in a circle. If far away, they dance in a figure 8 pattern. And to show the direction to the flowers they dance straight across the circle or figure 8 while wiggling their backside. They do this again and again until the message sinks in and the others all take off to get the pollen.

Bees find their direction by the position of the sun. That is why they perform the dance at the entrance to the hive where they can see daylight. But how do they do this when the sun is hidden behind thick cloud cover? The answer is that bees can sense the polarization of the daylight just like polarizing lenses on your sunglasses.

Honeybees also use this dance language to find new places to build a hive. When the scouts return and give their reports, the other bees judge how good the new home will be. The faster the scout dances, the better the place will be!

Magic Clips - an activity page for kids with my dog character showing how to perform a magic trick with a strip of paper and two paper clips

And much more available from the TimTim.com homepage

Tim Newlin
Creator of TimTim.com - Free Drawings for Classroom Use

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