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Examples of usage of communicative and marker signals by bees

Contributed by: individual researcher

How are bees' activities organized, and what is the beehive constantly buzzing about? Even at night, when there are no works in the "logistic" zone of the hive where the honey is being delivered, there are "marker" signals, as we have named them.
Examples of usage of communicative and marker signals by bees
They show if the bee is busy working or if it is free, and if it is working, what she is doing. These exact signals, or flags, allow to attract unemployed bees to work in a group; exactly these signals can tell the bee whether she can join the working group according to her age. Unemployed bees analyze these vibro-acoustic flags, and make a decision in accordance with their internal age program. That's what the beehive buzzes about. It is full of marker messages of thousands of bees, working and looking for work...

At first, let's proceed to the real example recorded by American scientists in the course of their experiments on the study of the dance of bees and the corresponding signals (The food recruitment dance of stingless bee apis, Melipona panamica, Nieh, 1998).

The figure shows the signals of two different bees - foragers flying to different feeding troughs. Pay attention to the picture of how the bees unload nectar. When the bee arrives, it emits a powerful monotonous signal to attract the attention of the bees that will take nectar for further processing; that is a communicative signal, which forces the bees that hear it to take part in the work on unloading nectar. As soon as the process of unloading starts, the communicative signal becomes weaker, turning into a series of marker signals, 'talking' about the process in which the bee participates. At the end of the unloading begins the dance - and again we can see another series of almost identical marker signals, beginning and ending with the communication signals. Inside the series, all signals are of the same type, and follow with practically the same interval. All the bees that look at her and hear her will understand what she wanted to say.

Another example is from our practical work. It is much easier to observe the bees on the landing board than in the depth of the hive. A good honey harvest gives an opportunity to see the work on drying honey right here.

So, we are seeing a situation, when on the landing board of the hive, two bees perform a job on removing moisture from the hive. Their work, as we see on the screen Apivox Smart Monitor, creates a set of vibro-acoustic signals.

One bee moves in the direction of the depth of the hive (1). She falls into the coverage zone of the vibro-acoustical marker of ventilating bees. She stops for a while; her wings involuntarily begin to perform movements as if she starts ventilating the hive. But apparently, either the marker signal was too weak or the contact is too short; she stopped movement of the wings (2) and went further, completely leaving the coverage zone of the marker signal. The second bee (3) moves closer to the center of the marker coverage zone and gets almost to its center. She immediately begins to work on the ventilation of the hive (4), moving slightly to the right, and by this, widening the coverage zone of the marker signal. Almost in the porch itself, two bees are visible, which apparently also felt the presence of a marker signal (5), but after analyzing it, which is evident from their indecisive behavior, they did not go deeper into the zone of action of the marker signal of the hive ventilation. In the diagram, we depicted the possible dependence of the probability of the joining of the bee to the cluster, from the place and duration of contact (6). In addition, the moment of analyzing the possibility of joining the cluster by two bees (5) was clearly visible. It remains unclear why the first bee did not join the work, although it almost began to perform it involuntarily.

All these examples we consider to be a possible confirmation of our idea of the meaning, and of the division into groups, of vibro-acoustical signals of bees. And what, eventually, will we as beekeepers gain if this theory is correct and can work? This is the most important question for us, especially as users of the Apivox Smart Monitor.

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