Agricultural and Ecological Role of the Honey Bee

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Honey bee foragers perform waggle dances to inform other foragers in the hive about the location, presence, and the odor of beneficial food sources and new hive sites. The aim of the study in review was to investigate how the characteristics of waggle dances for natural food sources and environmental factors affect dance follower behavior. Due to the assumption that food source profitability tends to decrease with increasing foraging distance, a hypothesis that the attractiveness of a dance, measured as the number of dance followers and their attendance, decreases with increasing distance to the projected food location was formed. In addition to the hypothesis, it was assumed that time of year and dance signal noise or the variation in waggle run direction and duration, affect dance follower behavior (Al Toufailia et al., 2013). Apis mellifera, commonly known as the European or western honey bee is a eusocial insect. Eusociality is a term used to describe living in cooperative groups in which one female and several males are reproductively active (Winston, 1981). All the non-breeding individuals of the group care for the young or protect and provide for the whole group. With these insects practicing eusociality, their hives contain one queen, a fertile female, who has all the offspring in the colony. The hive contains a few drones, males, to mate with the queen. Also, the hive contains thousands of workers, infertile females, whose duties include keeping the hive clean, building the wax combs of the hive, tending the young, and foraging for food (Engel, 2001). Honey bees need to communicate within their colonies to perform all these tasks. Though communication within the hive is a very important aspect of the western honey bee,... ... middle of paper ... insignificant in comparison with the potential loss of over 15 billion dollars worth of agricultural crops that bees are responsible for pollinating every year (Paxton, 2010). Without the western honey bee, Apis mellifera, there would mostly likely be a devastating ecological imbalance. The experiment conducted at the University of Sussex showed dance followers respond to the characteristics of the waggle dance. While dancing behavior and the factors that cause a bee to perform these signals are better understood, there is still a limited understanding of how followers of natural dances use the different informational components in their foraging decisions. More research into follower behavior, signal receiver and information use strategies under natural circumstances is needed to understand the waggle dance of the western honey bee (Al Toufailia et al., 2013).

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