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Abstract

One of the most conspicuous activities of worker bees inside a hive is the shaking of other workers. This shaking has long been suspected to be a communication behavior, but its information content and function have until recently remained mysterious. Prior studies of the colony-level patterns of the production of the shaking signal suggest strongly that this signal serves to arouse workers to greater activity, such as at times of good foraging. Data from our observations of individual bees bolster the hypothesis that the shaking signal informs workers to prepare for a higher level of activity. We followed foragers in a colony whose only source of ‘nectar’ was a sugar-water feeder and discovered that when the feeder was left empty for 1–3 d and then refilled, the first bees to find the food initially produced only shaking signals upon return to the hive. It was not until they had completed several trips to the feeder that they began to produce waggle dances. Evidently, the shaking signal and the waggle dance function together to stimulate a colony's foragers to activity.