Narrator: This is Science Today. For nearly half a century, there's been scientific controversy about the meaning of the honeybee's ‘waggle dance'. Is it actually a coded message used to guide other bees to new food sources? New experiments by a team of British researchers support this famous theory. But what exactly happens during this ‘waggle dance'? James Nieh, who studies bee communication at the University of California, San Diego, explains.
Nieh: The waggle dance has this waggle phase, where she's moving her abdomen back and forth in a fairly straight line. And then she goes back and makes the figure eight and loops around again and then she does the waggle phase.
Narrator: If the honeybee is waggling and her head is pointed straight up, that's telling the other bees in the nest to go in the direction of the sun. Straight down means go in the opposite direction.
Nieh: And if she is waggling at 90 degrees to the left, it means go 90 degrees to the left of the sun. The distance to the food source is encoded in the duration of the waggle run. So, the longer that she spends doing the waggle, the further away the food source is.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.