The Dance of the Honeybee: How Do Honeybees Dance to Transfer Food Information Effectively?


A honeybee informs her nestmates of the location of a flower she has visited by a unique behavior called a “waggle dance.” On a vertical comb, the direction of the waggle run relative to gravity indicates the direction to the food source relative to the sun in the field, and the duration of the waggle run indicates the distance to the food source. To determine the detailed biological features of the waggle dance, we observed worker honeybee behavior in the field. Video analysis showed that the bee does not dance in a single or random place in the hive but waggled several times in one place and then several times in another. It also showed that the information of the waggle dance contains a substantial margin of error. Angle and duration of waggle runs varied from run to run, with the range of ±15° and ±15%, respectively, even in a series of waggle dances of a single individual. We also found that most dance followers that listen to the waggle dance left the dancer after one or two sessions of listening.


  1. 1.

    Camazine, S., Sneyd, J. (1991) A model of collective nectar source selection by honeybee: Self-organization through simple rules. J. Theor. Biol. 149, 547–571.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    de Cries, H., Biesmeijer, J. C. (1998) Modelling collective foraging by means of individual behaviour rules in honey-bees. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 44, 109–124.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Gould, J. M., Gould, C. G. (1988) The Honey Bee. Scientific American Library, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Ikeno, H., Ohtani, T. (2001) Reconstruction of honeybee behavior within the observation hive, Neurocomputing 38–40, 1317–1323.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Judd, T. M. (1995) The waggle dance of the honey bee: which bees following a dancer successfully acquire the information? J. Insect. Behav. 8, 343–354.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Michelsen, A. (1993) The transfer of information in the dance language of honeybees: progress and problems. J. Comp. Physiol. 173, 135–141.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Michelsen, A. (2003) Signals and flexibility in the dance communication of honeybees. J. Comp. Physiol. 189, 165–174.

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Michelsen, A., Towne, W. F., Kirchner, W. H., Kryger, P. (1987) The acoustic near field of a dancing honeybee. J. Comp. Physiol. 161, 633–643.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Nicanor, Q., Kevin, P. (2007) Honey bee social foraging algorithms for resource allocation, Part I: Algorithm and theory. Proceedings. of 2007 American Control Conference, ThB 18.1.

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Seeley, T. D. (1995) The Wisdom of the Hive. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, USA.

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Sumpter, D. J. T., Pratt, S. C. (2003) A modelling framework for understanding social insect foraging. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 53, 131–144.

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    von Frisch, K. (1993) The Dance Language and Orientation of Bees. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, USA.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Weidenmüller, A., Seeley, T. D. (1999) Imprecision in waggle dances of the honeybee (Apis mellifera) for nearby food sources: error or adaptation? Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 46, 190–199.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to R. Okada.

Rights and permissions

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Okada, R., Ikeno, H., Sasayama, N. et al. The Dance of the Honeybee: How Do Honeybees Dance to Transfer Food Information Effectively?. BIOLOGIA FUTURA 59, 157–162 (2008).

Download citation


  • Apis mellifera
  • waggle dance
  • foraging
  • food location
  • honeybee
  • social insect