Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why bees that are too tired make mistakes with their 'waggledance'

Worker bees need sleep to be able to perform their waggle dance accurately

Just like tired and stressed humans, busy bees that get too little rest start to make mistakes, scientists have found.

Worker bees have the important job of letting their hive-mates know where to find food.

They pass on the information by performing a 'waggle dance' containing coded directions to nectar-rich flowers.

But when the insects were deprived of sleep their ability to communicate clearly began to suffer.

Their dances became sloppier and less precise than those of rested bees.

Dr Barrett Klein, from the University of Austin, Texas, US, said: 'When deprived of sleep, humans typically experience a diminished ability to perform a variety of tasks, including communicating as clearly or as precisely.

'We found that sleep-deprived honey bees also experienced communication problems. They advertised the direction to a food site less precisely to their fellow bees.'
The research involved disturbing sleeping bees with a magnetic device aptly named the 'insominator' by the scientists.

As the magnet was waved over bees fitted with small metallic backpacks it caused them to be jostled around and woken up.

After a sleepless night, the behaviour of the bleary-eyed insects' was compared with that of rested bees.

Fatigue was found to have a noticeable effect on the quality of their waggle dances.
'The dance was not necessarily wrong, but it was less precise than dances performed by bees that were not sleep-deprived,' said Dr Klein.

'We expect that a less precise dance would lead to fewer followers making it to the food source, and we hope to test this in the future.'

The research is reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

source: dailymail

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