Beatrice Describes Honey Bee Communication

I am so flattered to receive some fan mail and interesting inquiries each month! In my last column, I wrote that some bees “didn’t get the memo” which prompted several questions of just what kind of memo would’ve been passed around or, rather, how do honey bees communicate with one another. We don’t use e-mail or the internet. Rather, we have two primary ways to communicate – pheromones and gestures.

Our mother the queen primarily uses pheromones to communicate. The pheromones she emits mostly tell us that she is healthy and strong and still producing eggs.

My sisters and I communicate with each other primarily through gestures. If I find a particularly yummy and abundant food source, I can direct my sisters to it by doing the “waggle dance.” I don’t suppose the waggle dance really compares to the Jitterbug or the Electric Slide, but with the dance I can tell my sisters what I found, what direction to fly and how far away from the hive it is. Since humans do use the internet to communicate, you can see a good video of the waggle dance on You-Tube created by Georgia Tech College of Computing.

Worker bees also use pheromones to communicate. When one of my sisters has to protect the hive by stinging, she will emit an attractant pheromone which alerts other worker bees as a sort of “sting here” kind of scent. We would rather not sting though.

At this time of year, I collect more nectar than pollen. Nectar is a carbohydrate and it is the basic ingredient of our honey. Floral food sources that I am finding particularly yummy and abundant right now include shrub roses, dogwoods and black-eyed susans. Some of my all-time favorites are coming into bloom now too, including bee balm, lavender and coneflower. I’m being really helpful in Stephanie’s vegetable garden pollinating beans, squash and tomatoes.

On summer evenings when it is hot, my sisters and I hang out on the outside of the hive, a behavior called “bearding.” Perhaps you like to hang out outside on the deck and enjoy pretty flowers on these warm summer evenings, too.
Bees bearding









Beatrice mentioned that she really likes these plants:

Refreshing Your Container Gardens for Fall
Creating a Pollinator Garden