A fuzzy bee on a flower

What is the Waggle Dance?

July 25, 2022

What do you know about bees? You know they might sting you. You know they make honey. But is that where it stops? They’re actually pretty cool and some of the communication tools they use will blow your mind. Read on fo find out how they use a special dance to explain exactly where to find food.

First fact. Bees always know where the sun is. They remember this when they’re in the hive, and will use it as a reference point when telling directions. Humans do something similar with a compass, and use “north” as our reference point. The thing is, the sun is very convenient because you don’t need a compass to know where it is.

So if every single bee knows the current ocation of the sun in the sky, then how do they use this information to give directions?

“Fly directly towards the sun for 2 miles and you’ll find food. Or fly ten degrees right of the sun for 3 miles and you’ll find food.” But this begs the question on how they might deliver this detailed information without the use of language.

Behold! The Waggle Begins.

Here it is. The bee walks around in a rough “figure 8” pattern, and when they’re in the center of the shape, they walk straight and wiggle their butts. (They really wiggle their whole bodies, but I like to think of it as wiggling their butts.)

When you imagine a bee walking around doing the waggle dance, remember that they can walk on walls, so they’re not doing this dance on the floor, they’re doing it on the walls of the hive. When a bee walks up the wall, straight towards the sky, that translates to “straight towards the sun.”

So if straight up means go towards the sun - straight down means fly directly away from the sun. Ninety degrees clockwise means fly ninety degrees right of the sun.

And the amount of time spent walking and waggling? That tells them how far to fly.

Forager bees roam the countryside in search of flowers for pollen, and when someone finds the goods, they race back to the hive to tell everyone where it is. They share what direction to fly through the direction of the waggle, and how far to fly through the duration of the waggle.

Pretty straightforward right? Pretty amazing if you ask us.

There are a few more elements of the waggle dance, including smells, electric charges, and how vigorously the bee waggles, but we’ll just leave you to scour the internet if you want to learn more.

For now, here’s your takeaway. Bees are cooler than you realize. And as you may already know, their travel from plant to plant is essential for the continued growth of the food we all eat.

So keep dancing little guys and keep making that honey. We’ll keep busy as well, by making the best mead we can. Speaking of mead, “The Forager” is about to come back. If you aren’t familiar with The Forager, it’s our big, bold, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry mead and one of the best we’ve made yet. Be on the lookout for The Forager soon, and if you want to share the source with friends, do the waggle dance for them so they know where to find us.