Biologists of Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz (Germany), researching the social behavior of bees, are trying to figure out how they communicate with each other, under what conditions their behavior, learning ability and what factors determine the well-being of bee colonies, FAZ reports.
According to experts, there are about 20,000 species of bees in the world, of which only 1,000 live in families. “Most of the bees are loners,” Christoph Gruther of the Institute of Biology destroys the stereotype. But collectivist bees are very sociable and talkative insects – they have the most complex and mysterious social behavior among non-actors.
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Several years ago, researchers from the University of Würzburg (Germany), as well as from Australia and China, even discovered that bees can learn, so to speak, “foreign languages”: Asian bees can understand the dancing language of European relatives for several weeks.
But despite the fact that the bee is probably the most studied social insect, nevertheless much in its behavior is not known or is not sufficiently explained.
An example is a waggle dance, a complex and special kind of communication link between honey bees.
It is named this way because, while performing it, the bee wags its belly from side to side, and the figure of this dance resembles the figure eight. The dance is performed in a beehive by a scout bee to inform congeners where it has found a worthy source of pollen or nectar. “She dances for about four hours, heading in a certain direction,” says Grüter. “Every second carries information.” If a scout wags her abdomen about fifteen times a second, then you will have to fly about 750 meters, wagging in a two-second dance indicates a "flowering field, for example, a mile and a half from the hive."
Up to 40 percent of bee colonies are killed in apiaries due to pesticides.
The basic principle of dance was discovered by Karl von Frisch, who received the Nobel Prize for his work in the field of behavioral models. “The waggle dance is considered the most difficult message for non-actors,” says Grüter. However, some bees are interested in the waggle dance – others do not. Why, no one yet knows. To find out, German scientists from Mainz are shooting dances for the camera and researching individual genes, assuming that they contain key answers.
In addition, the riddle for scientists is the division of worker bees into nectar and pollen collectors: "We still do not understand why this is happening." For the most part, it is not completely clear how the "reward system" for reconnaissance bees works in a bee colony. Presumably, the substance octopamine plays a role, the effect of which on the brain of an animal is comparable to dopamine – the "pleasure hormone" for humans. To find out something new about the "reward system", Grüter and his colleagues labeled the bee wards with numbers and chips. A sensor on the hive registers when they fly away or return. In this way, individual motion patterns can be created.
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