Intra-Colonial Variability in the Dance Communication in Honeybees (Apis mellifera)


Gérard Arnold, CNRS UPR 9034, Laboratoire Populations, Génétique et Evolution, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette, France. E-mail:


Honeybees have evolved numerous mechanisms for increasing colony-level foraging efficiency, mainly the combined system of scout-recruit division of labour and recruitment communication. A successful forager performs waggle dances on the surface of the comb where it interacts with nectar receivers and dance followers. A forager uses tremble dance when it experiences difficulty finding a receiver bee to unload food upon return to the hive. A bee colony containing numerous subfamilies may increase its efficiency in dance communication if dances are realized by particular groups of specialized individuals or subfamilies rather than by undifferentiated workers. In this study, we determined the subfamily frequencies of waggle and tremble dancers in a colony headed by a naturally mated queen, where the 17 subfamilies can be identified by microsatellite genetic markers. Our results demonstrate that a genetic component is associated with the dance communication in honeybees. More than half of the waggle dances and the tremble dances were performed by workers from only four subfamilies in each case.