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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

BZZZ…Get to work!

Bzzz … Get to work!

Effective communication between humans is very important, especially when working as a team to complete a task.

How is it that worker bees work efficiently, pollinating plants and producing honey without talking?

Interestingly enough, bees have their own unique way of communicating to one another while working. Andrew Ulsamer, a technician at the ARS Bee Lab in Beltsville, Maryland, explains that worker bees can communicate through a "waggle dance," pheromones, and sound. Pheromones are behavior-changing chemicals that bees naturally produce and release.

The "waggle dance" is performed to send three different pieces of information to other worker bees: the distance and location of a food source, and how plentiful the source is—whether it be pollen, nectar, or something else.

The waggle dance often looks like the bee's whole body is shaking and it is! This is because the abdomen is moving rapidly from side to side. However long the bee performs this dance is how far away the pollen or food is. This dance is very helpful for a bee's survival, because without it, it would be difficult to work as a team and locate where the food is.

Remember that bees are special because of their unique way of working to produce the honey that we eat, as well as many of the fruits and vegetables we enjoy through their pollination.

Whether honey bees or humans, good communication is the key to working as a team to get the job done.

—By Kim Lewis, intern, formerly, Agricultural Research Service, Information Staff

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Last Modified: 4/26/2011
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