Brief Communications

Nature 401, 38 (2 September 1999) | doi:10.1038/43372

Insect behaviour: Evolutionary origins of bee dances

A. Dornhaus1 & L. Chittka1

Although bumble-bees are highly social insects, their foraging has been considered to be managed as an individual initiative1, 2, 3, 4, in which each bumble-bee visits flowers not only to collect food, but also to gather information about other potential food sources5. Here we show that bumble-bees instead use a primitive, but surprisingly efficient, recruitment system: by performing extended excitatory runs in the nest, a single successful forager can alert the entire foraging force of a bumble-bee colony. But in contrast to what happens in other social bees, such as honeybees, the recruits are not informed about the location of the food. Instead, the successful forager brings home the odour of the newly discovered food source, conveying to the recruits information about the species of flower. These findings about bumble-bee communication shed new light on the early evolutionary origins of the elaborate dance language of the honeybee.

  1. Lehrstuhl für Zoologie II, Biozentrum, Universität Würzburg, Am Hubland, 97074 Würzburg, Germany

Correspondence to: A. Dornhaus1 e-mail: Email: dornhaus@biozentrum.uni-wuerzburg.de