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FEATURE ARTICLE

Stingless-Bee Communication

Searching for a proto-dance language reveals possible stages in the evolution of methods by which experienced foragers lead others to food

James Nieh

Stingless-bees are a large monophyletic group of insects that includes more than 450 species and 30 to 50 genera. Like honeybees, stingless bees are highly social, and many species communicate the locations of food sources. The author has intensely studied the species Melipona panamica, looking for the means by which the bees relate information about the distance, direction and height of food sources. These bees use a wide range of communication techniques, from simply watching where other bees go to encoding information in sounds. A careful examination of this behavior suggests how food-recruitment communication might have evolved.


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