Research ArticleECOLOGY

Honeybees forage more successfully without the “dance language” in challenging environments

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Science Advances  13 Feb 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 2, eaat0450
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat0450


Honeybees use the waggle dance to share information about food-site locations with nestmates. However, the importance of this behavior in colony foraging success remains unclear. We tested whether spatial dance information affects colony foraging success in a human-modified temperate environment by comparing colonies with oriented and disoriented dances. Strikingly, colonies with disoriented dances had greater foraging success. Over time, bees exposed to disoriented dances showed reduced interest in dancing nestmates. This may explain why disoriented colonies had a higher foraging rate than oriented colonies, as bees did not waste time waiting for information. This change in information-use strategy suggests bees learn about the value of dance information. An agent-based model confirmed that, under challenging conditions, waiting for dance information reduces colony foraging success compared to foraging without social information. Our results raise the possibility that humans have created environments to which the waggle dance language is not well adapted.

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