TitleSimilarities in dance follower behaviour across honey bee species suggest a conserved mechanism of dance communication
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsGeorge EAntony, Pimplikar S, Thulasi N, Brockmann A
Date Published11/2020

Social communication systems are predominantly multimodal and can combine modulatory and information-bearing signals. The honey bee waggle dance, one of the most elaborate forms of social communication in animals, activates nestmates to search for food and communicates symbolic information about the location of the food source. Previous studies on the dance behaviour in diverse honey bee species demonstrated distinct differences in the concurrence of visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile signals produced by the dancer. We studied the behaviour of dance signal receivers, the dance followers, to explore the potential significance of different signals in the communication process. In particular, we asked whether the behaviour of dance followers differs between the three major Asian honey bee species, Apis florea, Apis dorsata and Apis cerana, and whether this might correlate with the differences in the signals produced by the dancing foragers. Our comparison demonstrated that the behaviour of the dance followers is highly similar across all three species. The mean body orientation of the dance followers with respect to the waggle dancer was close to 90 degrees throughout the run, with the majority positioning themselves lateral to the dancer. These findings suggest that the communication of spatial information might be more conserved than implied by the differences in the signals produced by the dancer. Along with studies in Apis mellifera, our results suggest that all honey bee species rely on tactile contacts between the dancer and follower to communicate spatial information. The cues and signals that differ between the species may be involved in attracting the followers towards the dancer or increasing their motivation to start foraging in the different nest environments. (C) 2020 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.