Does the Earth's Magnetic Field Serve as a Reference for Alignment of the Honeybee Waggle Dance?

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Faculty/Staff
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Lambinet V, Hayden ME, Bieri M, Gries G (2014) Does the Earth's Magnetic Field Serve as a Reference for Alignment of the Honeybee Waggle Dance? PLoS ONE 9(12): e115665. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0115665

Date created: 
2014-12-26
Abstract: 

The honeybee (Apis mellifera) waggle dance, which is performed inside the hive by forager bees, informs hive mates about a potent food source, and recruits them to its location. It consists of a repeated figure-8 pattern: two oppositely directed turns interspersed by a short straight segment, the “waggle run”. The waggle run consists of a single stride emphasized by lateral waggling motions of the abdomen. Directional information pointing to a food source relative to the sun's azimuth is encoded in the angle between the waggle run line and a reference line, which is generally thought to be established by gravity. Yet, there is tantalizing evidence that the local (ambient) geomagnetic field (LGMF) could play a role. We tested the effect of the LGMF on the recruitment success of forager bees by placing observation hives inside large Helmholtz coils, and then either reducing the LGMF to 2% or shifting its apparent declination. Neither of these treatments reduced the number of nest mates that waggle dancing forager bees recruited to a feeding station located 200 m north of the hive. These results indicate that the LGMF does not act as the reference for the alignment of waggle-dancing bees.

Language: 
English
Document type: 
Article
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Sponsor(s): 
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Contech Enterprises Inc.
Global Forest Science
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