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PeerJ. 2017 Jun 7;5:e3441. doi: 10.7717/peerj.3441. eCollection 2017.

Combined effects of waggle dance communication and landscape heterogeneity on nectar and pollen uptake in honey bee colonies.

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Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology, Bayerische Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany.


The instructive component of waggle dance communication has been shown to increase resource uptake of Apis mellifera colonies in highly heterogeneous resource environments, but an assessment of its relevance in temperate landscapes with different levels of resource heterogeneity is currently lacking. We hypothesized that the advertisement of resource locations via dance communication would be most relevant in highly heterogeneous landscapes with large spatial variation of floral resources. To test our hypothesis, we placed 24 Apis mellifera colonies with either disrupted or unimpaired instructive component of dance communication in eight Central European agricultural landscapes that differed in heterogeneity and resource availability. We monitored colony weight change and pollen harvest as measure of foraging success. Dance disruption did not significantly alter colony weight change, but decreased pollen harvest compared to the communicating colonies by 40%. There was no general effect of resource availability on nectar or pollen foraging success, but the effect of landscape heterogeneity on nectar uptake was stronger when resource availability was high. In contrast to our hypothesis, the effects of disrupted bee communication on nectar and pollen foraging success were not stronger in landscapes with heterogeneous compared to homogenous resource environments. Our results indicate that in temperate regions intra-colonial communication of resource locations benefits pollen foraging more than nectar foraging, irrespective of landscape heterogeneity. We conclude that the so far largely unexplored role of dance communication in pollen foraging requires further consideration as pollen is a crucial resource for colony development and health.


Apis mellifera; Floral resource distribution; Foraging behaviour; Landscape ecology; Orientation; Recruitment

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare there are no competing interests.

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