Conducting behaviour

A study recently published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests that honey bees may communicate using the electric fields that build up on their wings when they fly . The authors showed that electric fields change the position of the bees’ antennae. This in turn affects the sensory Johnstone’s organ the base of the antennae, which sends signals to the brain. Tests were conducted that showed honey bees learned a carbohydrate rich reward was present when they detected a specific electric field. This is another, fascinating way in which honey bees may be able to communicate with each other… or aid in communication such as the waggle dance. 


Interestingly, another study, recently published in Science, suggests that bumblebees can distinguish between the electric fields of flowers recently visited and those which are unvisited and have untapped reservoirs of nectar. In lab experimentation bees were able to distinguish between artificial flowers with two potential electric fields: one gave a sweet reward and the other gave a bitter reward. If bumblebees are able to do this in nature it would mean more efficient foraging behaviour.