Does an increase in reward affect the precision of the encoding of directional information in the honeybee waggle dance?

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2005 May;191(5):413-9. doi: 10.1007/s00359-005-0602-3. Epub 2005 Mar 19.


Apis mellifera foragers perform waggle dances to communicate the presence of highly desirable nectar sources to their forager-mates. Each waggle dance consists of several waggle-runs (straight movements of the dancer closely aligned on the comb surface) that carry spatial information that the dance followers can use to locate the food source being advertised. To address how this complex motor display responds to unpredictable fluctuations in its main triggering stimulus, i.e., sucrose stimulation, we analyzed the effects of an increase in reward on the direction of consecutive waggle-runs as well as other components of the waggle dance. Results show that a sudden increase in reward may increase the directional scatter among consecutive waggle-runs, especially those performed at the beginning of the dance. However, a simultaneous and rapid increase in the duration of the signal--together with a more regular alignment of the later waggle-runs within the signal--seems to compensate the initial increase in directional scatter so that the transfer of directional information remains effective. These results point out that the regulation of dance maneuvers depends on the dancer's motivation to forage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Female
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Reward
  • Video Recording