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J Exp Biol. 2019 Jun 13;222(Pt 11). pii: jeb195099. doi: 10.1242/jeb.195099.

Honey bees flexibly use two navigational memories when updating dance distance information.

Author information

National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bangalore 560065, India.
School of Chemical & Biotechnology, SASTRA University, Thanjavur 613401, India.
Department of Biosciences, University of Mysore, Mysore 570006, India.
International Centre for Theoretical Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bangalore 560 089, India.
National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bangalore 560065, India


Honey bees can communicate navigational information which makes them unique amongst all prominent insect navigators. Returning foragers recruit nest mates to a food source by communicating flight distance and direction using a small scale walking pattern: the waggle dance. It is still unclear how bees transpose flight information to generate corresponding dance information. In single feeder shift experiments, we monitored for the first time how individual bees update dance duration after a shift of feeder distance. Interestingly, the majority of bees (86%) needed two or more foraging trips to update dance duration. This finding demonstrates that transposing flight navigation information to dance information is not a reflexive behavior. Furthermore, many bees showed intermediate dance durations during the update process, indicating that honey bees highly likely use two memories: (i) a recently acquired navigation experience and (ii) a previously stored flight experience. Double-shift experiments, in which the feeder was moved forward and backward, created an experimental condition in which honey bee foragers did not update dance duration; suggesting the involvement of more complex memory processes. Our behavioral paradigm allows the dissociation of foraging and dance activity and opens the possibility of studying the molecular and neural processes underlying the waggle dance behavior.


Apis mellifera; Private and social information; Retroactive interference; Spatial memories; Waggle dance communication


Conflict of interest statement

Competing interestsThe authors declare no competing or financial interests.

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