Waggle Dance

Bees are found on every continent except Antarctica. It is found where entomophilous flowers are present. Archaeological studies have found that bees were found in the Middle East dating back 3000 years. There are over 20000 species of bee. The most common one amongst them is the honey bees. Everyone in their lifetime at least has seen a bee. Goes without saying bees have one of the most advanced and intricate levels of sociality. Thus, scientists call this type of organization eusociality. There are 3 types of bees present in a hive, the Queen bee, worker bees and the drones. The Queen is the largest among all the bees and is chosen by the worker bees. She is chosen from amongst the worker bees and is kept inside a different cell made by the worker bees out of wax. The queen is not fed the honey or the pollen brought into the hive by the worker bees. Instead, Royal Jelly is fed to her. The royal jelly is secreted by the gland of the worker bees. The only job of the Queen is to mate with the worker bees of other hives and store its sperm. She produces about 1400 eggs in a day that is more than her body weight. If a Queen of another hive enters her hive, then either the worker bees chase her out of the hive or the queen fights her till there is one last standing. There are two types of eggs laid by the queen, the fertilised eggs which metamorphose into female worker bees and the unfertilized eggs that turn into male drones. The queen gradually becomes weak in which case a new Queen is chosen by the worker bees from amongst the worker bees. The worker bees, on the other hand, have to take up the most cumbersome and precarious tasks of all, helping in the proliferation of the selected queen, taking care of the developing larvae, fanning their wings to cool their hive and the most dangerous task of going out in search of food and nectar. These bees do not mate but only help in the proper functioning of the hive. The worker bees have two sex chromosomes as it is a product of a fertilized egg, unlike the male drones. Worker bees also help in searching for new locations where hives can be made. This is where the complex nature of “Waggle Dance” comes in. Waggle Dance is basically when the scouts come back from a potentially favourable place to the swarm of bees and start wheeling around and wagging their rears. The more favourable the place, the more intense and longer is this dance-off. If different scouts find different favourable places, these wheeling bees give each other head bumps until one of them stops dancing and then the swarm comes to a collective decision about the hive building. Male bees, the drones have the only work of proliferating in the hive then moving out in search of other hives to mate with the Queen and thus transfer the genes from one hive to another. Right after mating their genitalia is torn off and they die. Occupational hazard much? With the increasing loss of habitat, bee populations are in decline. This is mainly due to proper trees where these bees can build their nests. Bees build their nests in trees which have specific dimensions. As too small a dimension can result in the suffocation of the bees and too wide an entry can compromise the defence of the hive. Also, the increasing use of pesticides and insecticides has caused a decline in the population of bees popularly defined by beekeepers as the population collapse disorder. Here the worker bees of the hive disappear all of a sudden. “Biologists think that intensive agriculture and industry have created a range of stressors that do not kill bees but impair their ability to forage and find their way home. Pests and parasites such as the varroa mite may also be to blame for some cases.” - New Scientist

"I think of a swarm as an exposed brain that hangs quietly from a tree branch" said Seeley,

a biologist from Cornell University, as every decision is taken by a collective decision of all the bees. Very much like the neurons of the brain. Apart from its importance as pollinators and honey producers, scientists are particularly interested in their cognitive abilities. As these small creatures with much-limited brainpower can accomplish such complex tasks. By its waggle dance behaviour, it can communicate to the other bees of the swarm where the food sources are as well. They can also send signals to the worker bees like “go to work“.

REFERENCES

https://askabiologist.asu.edu/bee-colony-life

https://www.newscientist.com/term/bees/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-secret-life-of-bees-99559587/


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