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Author Topic: Honeybees Can Learn Foreign 'Languages'  (Read 1972 times)

Offline Jerrymac

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Honeybees Can Learn Foreign 'Languages'
« on: June 09, 2008, 01:11:19 pm »


 Honeybees Can Learn Foreign 'Languages'

Andrea Thompson
Senior Writer
LiveScience.com2 hours, 36 minutes ago

They may "speak" different languages, but Asian and European honeybees living in the same hive can learn to translate each others' dances to help one another find food, a new study reveals.

Honeybees produce and store honey and build colonial hives from wax. The nine species of honeybees found worldwide diverged, in evolutionary terms, about 30 million to 50 million years ago and developed different dance "languages" that they use to tell each other where a tasty flower or choice nesting site is.

"The scouts perform the so-called bee dances inside the nest," said study leader Shaowu Zhang of The Australian National University. "The coordinates of distant locations are encoded in the waggle phase of this ballet, with the direction and distance to the food source indicated by the orientation and duration of the dance."

The duration of the "waggle dances" differs from species to species, even if bees are trying to communicate the same distance information.

"It's these differences which we can think of as distinct languages," Zhang said.

Zhang and his team mixed two species of honeybees, Asian (Apis cerana cerana) and European (Apis mellifera ligustica), together in a hive, and once they had adjusted to each other, the scientists trained one species to fly to a feeder set at varying distances from the hive.

When European honeybees were trained to find the feeder , Asian honeybees were able to decipher the dances of their European cousins and interpret where the feeder was. The same was true when the experiment was reversed.

"They can understand and communicate [with] each other," Zhang said.

Whether bilingual bees occur in nature though is uncertain, because "the different species of honeybees do not live together in nature," Zhang told LiveScience. "We established an artificially mixed colony for our experiments."

The team's findings are detailed online in the journal PLoS ONE. The study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Vision Science.
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Offline fermentedhiker

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Re: Honeybees Can Learn Foreign 'Languages'
« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2009, 04:03:28 pm »
Sorry to resurrect a old post, but I was wondering if anyone had found a copy of the complete study online.  I've only been able to find links to scientific archive sites that require a subscription to access.  I guess I haven't got a practical reason for looking into it, just for my own edification  ;)  I'm curious how they combine the two species into one hive.  What was included for brood and comb?  Did they use a single queen or did they find that the queens of the two species didn't view each other as would two queens of the same species?  Did the two species stratify within the hive or did they mix more or less homogeneously?  As you can tell, I'm always full of questions, very few answers(unless you count 42) but always more questions.

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