Like humans, honey bees are very good at communicating with one another. However, instead of talking, they use other methods.
Pheromones are chemical signals produced by honey bees that can trigger a variety of different things to happen within a colony. The queen pheromone (produced by the queen) signals to the colony that the queen is healthy and present. Its presence suppresses egg laying in workers and attracts drones while the queen is on her mating flight. The Nassanoff pheromone is produced by worker bees to mark their colony and attract returning foragers back to the entrance. The brood produces a pheromone to signal the nurse bees to take care of them. The alarm pheromone is produced by guard bees to alert the colony of a threat, such as a bear or skunk (or sometimes a beekeeper!).
- Waggle Dance
One very special form of communication among honey bees is the waggle dance. This is a performance done by returning forager bees to let others know the location of a food source. the forager walks in a figure-eight pattern and in the middle will shake its abdomen. As simple as this sounds, the dance communicates many things to the other bees. The intensity of the abdomen shake represents how good the food source is and the size of the figure-eight represents how far away the food source is. Finally, the direction that the forager is dancing corresponds to the direction of the food source outside of the hive. The bees use the top of the hive to represent the sun, so if the dance is done facing 45 degrees left of the top of the hive, the foragers know to fly in the direction 45 degrees left of the sun! When the colony is about to swarm, scout bees will also perform the waggle dance when telling the colony about a new nest site.
Trophallaxis is an important form of colony communication. It is the direct transfer of food and fluids from one individual to another.
Worker bees release the Nasonov pheromone to orient returning forager bees back to the colony by raising their abdomens and fanning their wings vigorously.