Bee dancing

Signs or indications

Worker bees, especially when in the lowest box, repeating an exaggerated movement pattern of circling that includes rapid movement of the abdomenabdomen:
the segmented, posterior (third) part of the bee body that contains heart, honey, stomach, intestines, Malphigian tubules, reproductive organs, and sting
from side-to-side. We call this dancing or dance language. A dancing bee may stop from time to time and offer food via trophallaxis to bees in the vicinity (recruits). Worker bee recruitsrecruits:
older forager-aged bees (generally at least three weeks old) responding to dancing bees seeking to share information about nectar, pollen, water, or bee resin resources
crowd the dancer to listen to the sound of vibration and "read" the information coded into this language.

Bees use dancing to convey sources of food and home sites.


Bee dancing is used in the recruitment of foragers (recruits) to investigate food. A scout bee returns to the hive engorged with nectar from a newly found nectar source or with body and pollen baskets filled with pollen. A nectar collector may spend 30–45 seconds regurgitating and distributing nectar to bees waiting in the hive. Then she begins "dancing."

It was once thought that there are two types of bee dances: the round dance and the tail-wagging or waggle dance, with a transitional form known as the sickle dance. However, recent investigation considers it all one dance, with variation from a round (no-waggling), to an oval with waggling portions that doesn't enclose a circle, to two closed circles (a figure 8) with the straight portion (the waggling) prominent.

In all cases the quality and quantity of the food source determines the liveliness of the dances. If the nectar source is of excellent quality, nearly all foragers will dance enthusiastically and at length each time they return from foraging. Food sources of lower quality will produce fewer, shorter, and less vigorous dances, thus recruiting fewer new foragers.

Pollen grains remain clinging to body hairs of returning foragers, and a few flowers might cause a yellow face or a streak of pollen on the forager's thoraxthorax:
the middle region of the adult bee body, which lies in between the head and the abdomen; consists of three segments: pro-, meso-, and meta-thorax; thorax attachments include three pairs of legs and two pairs of wings
. This pollen, with a characteristic flower odor (to bees at least), helps communicate floral sources when recruiting pollen foragers with dancing.

Dancing (or dance language) is also the communication form used by scouts to inform bees in the bivouac of a clustered swarm of new homesites.

Most closely resembles

Dorso-ventral shaking behavior vibration signals


“The Waggle Dance of the Honeybee”. YouTube, uploaded by Georgia Tech college of Computing, 2 February 2011.

Ask A Biologist. Accessed 2023.

Caron DM and Connor LJ. 2022. Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping, Third Edition, Chapter 8. Wicwas Press, Kalamazoo, MI, US. 480 pages.

Bee-Health. 2019. Dance Language of the Honey Bee. Bee Health. Accessed 2023.

 Dancing bee with pollen; photo by Chritoph Gruter
Dancing bee with pollen; photo by Chritoph Gruter
 Bee waggle dance; illustration by Jon Zawislak
Bee waggle dance; illustration by Jon Zawislak