Attendants and followers of honey bee waggle dances
J Bozic; T Valentincic
The behaviour of bees surrounding a dancing honey bee (Apis mellifera) was studied, using two colonies in observation hives in a shaded part of an apiary. Video recordings and macrophotography were used to view an area of the dance field. Two distinct behaviours were recognized: that of followers and that of attendants. The attendants stood around the dance field with their antennae stretched towards the dancer, and only occasionally moved with the dancer. Followers continuously ran with the dancer, keeping their heads within the border of the dancer's figure-eight path at all times. The angle between the body of the follower and that of the dancer was 90° during most of the dance, except at the exit of the waggle run. At that time the follower had to cross over to the opposite side of the dancer. The distance between the head of the follower and the dancer's body was nearly always smaller (1 758 cases out of a total of 1 882) than the length of an extended antenna. During the return run the follower touched the dancer with antennae most of the time, whereas during the waggle run the followers intermittently touched the dancer. Either one bee (81 % of cases) or two bees (18%) followed the dance simultaneously. The second follower and all other bees were usually pushed out of the follower's position because of a lack of space at the inner side of the dancer. These observations are discussed in relation to current hypotheses on how bees perceive the dance.