Dance Of The Honey Bees

The honey bee dance is a fascinating behavior in animal life.


  • The dance is performed by worker bees who return to the hive with pollen or nectar.


  • Worker bees tell the other workers where the food is through dance.


  • A worker bee dances on the honeycomb’s surface to tell other bees where the food is. The dancer “spells out” two pieces of information — distance and direction to the target food source. 

Types of Dance

Distance and direction to the food source are presented in three types of dances.

Round Dance:

  • A worker bee performs a round dance when a food source is close to the hive (less than 50 meters).
  •  The bee runs around in narrow circles, suddenly reversing direction to the original course.
  • The bee repeats the dance several times at the same location or moves to another location on the comb to repeat it.
  • The round dance communicates “distance.”

Sickle  Dance:

  • The sickle dance communicates food sources at intermediate distances, between 50 and 150 meters from the hive. 
  • This crescent-shaped dance represents a transition between the round and waggle dance.

Waggle Dance:

The waggle dance is a special ‘figure-of-eight’ dance performed by the worker bee in its hive.

  • The waggle dance, or wag-tail dance, is performed by bees foraging at food sources more than 150 meters from the hive. 
  • This dance communicates both distance and direction
  • The bee starts by waggling its body from side to side in a straight line. This part of the dance tells the other bees where to fly to find the flowers. 
    • If it waggles straight up, the bees should fly towards the sun. 
    • If it waggles at an angle, it tells them to fly in that direction relative to the sun.
  • After this, it will turn right and circle back to the starting point. It will then do another waggle run, turn to the left, and circle back to the beginning, completing the “figure-of-eight.” 

Other Communication Through Dance

Honeybees can communicate other types of information through their dances. 

  • Predator Alert: When bees encounter a threat, such as a predator or an intruder near the hive, they perform a dance called the “stop signal.” 
    • This dance consists of the bee rapidly vibrating its abdomen against the comb, producing a distinct signal that alerts other bees to danger.
  • New Hive Discovery: Scout bees perform a different type of dance to communicate the location of a new hive site to other bees.
    • This dance, known as the “swarm dance” or “recruitment dance,” can indicate the direction and distance to the new hive.

Fun Facts

Here are some interesting facts about honey bees:

  • Honeybees’ foraging ‘scouts’ can travel up to 8 miles from their nest to find the best nectar source.
  • Karl von Frisch, a professor of Zoology at the University of Munich in Germany, interpreted the honey bees’ dance in the 1940s.
  • Honey Bees fly around 25km per hour and beat their wings 200 times per second.
  • The average worker bee lives for just five to six weeks. She produces around a twelfth of a teaspoon of honey during this time.
  • The queen can live up to five years. She is busiest in the summer when she can lay up to 2,500 eggs daily.


Let’s quickly recap what we learned about the dance of the honey bees:

  • What are the two pieces of information a bee communicates through dance about the food source? Distance and Direction
  • What dance does a bee perform when the food source is less than 50 meters from the hive? Round Dance
  • What dance does a bee perform when the food source is more than 150 meters from the hive?  Waggle Dance
  • What is the special figure or shape made during a waggle dance? Figure-of-Eight
  • What object do the bees use as a reference point when indicating the direction of the food source? The Sun
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