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PLoS Biol. 2007 Sep;5(9):e228.

The scent of the waggle dance.

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  • 1Arizona Research Laboratories, Division of Neurobiology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, United States of America.


The waggle dance of honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) foragers communicates to nest mates the location of a profitable food source. We used solid-phase microextraction and gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry to show that waggle-dancing bees produce and release two alkanes, tricosane and pentacosane, and two alkenes, Z-(9)-tricosene and Z-(9)-pentacosene, onto their abdomens and into the air. Nondancing foragers returning from the same food source produce these substances in only minute quantities. Injection of the scent significantly affects worker behavior by increasing the number of bees that exit the hive. The results of this study suggest that these compounds are semiochemicals involved in worker recruitment. By showing that honey bee waggle dancers produce and release behaviorally active chemicals, this study reveals a new dimension in the organization of honey bee foraging.

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