Last updated on March 29th, 2023 at 09:45 am
Have you ever observed honeybees wiggling their bums in a form of a strange dance-like motion and wondered what they’re doing and why?
Well look no further, we’ve gone ahead and found out exactly why bees wiggle their bums and the myriad of reasons they might do it.
Let’s take a closer look at our gyrating, booty-shaking friends and answer the question, why do bees wiggle their bums?
So why do bees wiggle their bums?
First of all, it’s important to understand not all wiggles are equal and the wiggle itself normally holds distinct cues that communicate information to other members of the colony.
The waggle dance
A honeybee waggle dance is a unique communication method that honeybees use to tell other bees where food is.
Honeybees live in colonies that are made up of hundreds and sometimes thousands of bees. To get from their hive to the flowers where they gather nectar, these bees need to get help from other bees.
That’s why the waggle dance was developed: it’s a way for one bee to communicate with others about the location of food so that they can all go to it.
The waggle dance is performed on the vertical surface of a comb in front of other bees, who are watching from below.
The dancer moves forward and backwards in a figure-eight pattern, which creates the illusion of movement along a straight line to the nectar source.
The angle at which the dancer moves forward and backwards determines how far away the nectar source is from the hive. The higher up on the comb the dancer starts, the farther away from home it is.
Check out this short video on the waggle dance from BBC Earth.
Other physical signals used by honeybees
Alongside the waggle dance, a honeybee has a range of other visual and physical cues it can use to alert and signal other members of the hive.
Buzzing through the hive
If a worker bee proceeds to buzz her wings frantically through the hive it’s a clear cue to other worker bees that an exodus is about to begin. This cue is typically used to signal a colony leaving a hive and initiates the colony to swarm.
What if the whole abdomen is shaking and pulsing?
If you can see the whole abdomen pulsing chances are this isn’t a form of communication but actually, the bee breathing in and out.
Bees don’t have lungs like us so this isn’t breathing as we know it but still performs the same process. A honeybee’s body is covered with tiny holes that can’t be seen by the human eye.
- 🐝🐝🐝 Wildlife Gifts To Help Bees & Pollinators - Your Bee Revival Keyring contains a special syrup specifically designed to help tired, thirsty bees. This portable bee keychain feeder sits neatly on your keys, handbag or backpack and can be easily refilled by using our Refill Kit or creating your own bee sugar water mix easily at home. Each bee rescue kit comes attached to our revolutionary plantable packaging which grows real Wildflowers when planted.
- 🎁🎁🎁 Bee Gifts For Women - Give the gift of giving with our bee accessories from Revive a Bee. Perfect for womens gifts, thank you gifts for women, bee related gifts, small gifts for women, eco friendly gifts for women, little gifts for her, sustainable gifts for women and gifts for a female friend. Revive a Bee is dedicated to championing save the bees gifts all across the UK.
- 🌱🌱🌱 Plantable Seed Paper Packaging/Seed Gifts - What makes the perfect eco gift? We think eco gifts should actively help the planet so we even made our packaging grow flowers. Every single bee saving keyring comes attached to our Wildflower seed paper which is jam-packed full of Daisy, Poppy and Forget Me Not seeds perfect for bees and pollinators.
- 🌍🌎🌏 Planet Friendly Gadget Keyring - A great gift for a friend or loved one who cares about the planet and its many inhabitants. Ideal as a small gift for a friend, friendship gift, work friends gift of to anyone who collects bee stationary and accessories. A bee feeder you can easily carry on your adventures.
- 🐾🐾🐾 Supports Rewilding Britain - A percentage of every sale will be donated to Rewilding Britain via Work For Good. We work closely with Rewilding Britain to ensure we are helping all wildlife, not just bees and pollinators. They support projects all across the UK with aim of making the world a better place by restoring wild nature.
These holes are called spiracles, each hole is attached to tubes called tracheae which allow the bee to absorb oxygen and breathe.
Typically this processor diffusion occurs without any visible movement of the bee.
During periods of exertion (like foraging for nectar and pollen) the tracheae are forced to work harder and this results in the pulsing motion observed in the abdomen of a honeybee.
Why are bees raising their tails in the air?
Another common sight amongst honeybees is workers raising their tails in the air while in the company of other workers from the same hive.
While this can look slightly comical it actually plays a vital role in communication.
There is a gland positioned on the tail of worker bees called a Nasonov gland.
This gland is responsible for releasing the Nasonov scent which is used by bees to mark locations that have previously been unvisited like foraging or water sources.
Interestingly this scent is also used by queens to locate their hive after returning from a mating flight.
Why do bees wiggle their bums? It’s simple to communicate. All of the different movements honeybees make are used to signal with their kin and each distinct movement holds a clear message for the hive’s other inhabitants.
If you found this short read interesting then don’t miss our other fascinating reads below where we dive into your local wildlife to find out more about the wonderful world of insects.