A team of researchers from the United States has developed an accurate translation system for the honey bee dance. The gauge model will allow scientists to instantly interpret the complex communication of these insects and possibly save them from extinction.
In an article in Animal Behavior magazine, specialists from the Virginia Polytechnic University presented an outstanding achievement – a universal calibration tool that translates communications of bees of various subspecies and habitats. To begin with, deciphering the messages encoded in the movements of insects, the so-called waggle dances, scientists hope to better understand the food preferences and the places where nectar and pollen are collected, Phys.org reports. But in the future, this may be the tool that will save the world’s major pollinators from extinction.
Almost 60 years ago, the ethologist Karl von Frisch, the Nobel Prize winner, discovered that the position of a bee’s body relative to the vertical indicates the direction of forage collection, and the distance to the food source is determined by the duration of the dance.
Returning to the hive, the intelligence bee tells about where to find nectar, performing movements resembling the eight in the air. Von Frisch’s calibration model has become the gold standard for researchers.
However, as pointed out by scientists from Virginia, different bees reporting the same location can dance in different ways. And even one bee does not always exactly repeat its movements, re-explaining how to get to the right place. Moreover, bees dance only when they find particularly rich sources of food. Such anomalies prompted scientists to develop a new calibration system. To do this, they analyzed the waggle dances of 85 labeled bees of the subspecies Apis mellifera and compared them with the language of other hives and subspecies.
In the course of the research, they noticed that the individual noise, or differences in dance among the individual bees, were so significant that the differences in the subspecies or location of the hive were biologically irrelevant.
In other words, a bee from England will understand a bee from Virginia and find a food source in the indicated location.
Then biologists combined all calibration data and made their system universal. The created model will allow not only to plant the plants most suitable for bees, but also to increase their population. In the coming years, scientists plan to automate the process of deciphering the language of bees.
Most crops depend on insect pollination, but their numbers are steadily declining. Scientists around the world are looking for ways to stop the bee’s extinction process, and engineers are developing a replacement for them.