Thursday, August 6, 2009

Science: Clever Bees Quick to Learn 'Foreign' Language

By Rich Bowden

Img: European Honeybee. Credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim

First Published: The Tech Herald

In a remarkable study, Australian scientists have discovered that Asian and European honeybees have the capacity to understand each other, despite having different secret dance languages.

Scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science and the Australian National University said bees tell the hive where a food source by intricate little dances which transmit information.

“Honeybees gauge the distance flown to a food source using a ‘visual odometer’ that logs the objects that flow past their vision as they fly,” explains Dr. Shaowu Zhang, a Chief Investigator at ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science and Australian National University in an ARC press release.

“On their return to the hive they transfer this information to their hive-mates using a tail-waggle dance, where the speed and pattern of the beats indicates the distance and direction of the food.”

However with different species of honeybee using different forms of the dance, Dr Zhang said researchers wanted to know if the difference was a handicap to the exchange of food knowledge.

“We also wanted to find out whether different species of honeybee can learn from, and communicate with, one another,” Shaowu says.

The team bred a mixed hive consisting of an Asian queen bee, Asian and European workers. The scientists observed that “We were often able to observe both species of foragers dance in the mixed colony and saw the other species of bees following the dancing bee”Shaowu says despite the Asiatic and European bees having quite distinct food dances.

“The team found that in the mixed colony Asian bees can be recruited by the European dancer to find the food source that the European bees had visited, Dr Zhang said. "We watched the Asian bees set out for and successfully locate the food."

“The same applied to the European bees, proving that the two species are able to communicate with one another despite their native ‘language barrier’,” Shaowu says.

“We concluded that Asian and European honeybees can learn to understand one another.”

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog keep it up


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