Today is the start of National Insect Week, and as bees are probably my favourite insect, I thought I’d start with a great bee fact: bees communicate through dance!
This fact refers specifically to honey bees, who do a special kind of dance called the waggle dance. When a worker returns from a successful foraging trip, she performs this dance to indicate the distance and direction of nectar and pollen rich flowers, a water source, or a new nest-site location.
Bumblebees and other bees don’t dance to communicate. Instead, they use the vibration of their wings and chemical signals to share information.
Other bees still have unique flight patterns that indicate certain behaviours, however: for instance, bumblebee queens do low-flying behaviour when seeking out a new nest site, while male bees have a “patrol” pattern they use to find queens. Bees will also do orientation flights in figure of eight patterns around their nest to familiarise themselves with their surroundings. If you stand next to a bumblebee nest, you might even find they start doing this flight around you! It’s nothing to worry about, they are only familiarising themselves with you as a new object.