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Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.

How Bees Find a New Home

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: bees, wildlife, biology, insects, environment, Northern Woodlands, Keith Goetzman,


How do honeybees find a new home? In the same way they do most everything: Through a highly regimented, hierarchical yet democratic process—with dancing!

Yes, a variation on the “waggle dance” that scout bees use to communicate food finds is also employed when bees go real estate shopping, writes biologist, professor, and bee watcher par excellence Thomas D. Seeley in “Honeybee House Hunting” in Northern Woodlands magazine. A “search committee” is also involved, reports Seeley, as well as a lobbying and voting process that looks a lot like a political race. Once a scout has found a house site, she recruits supporters among fellow scouts and uses a waggle dance to tell them where it is, so they can take their own home tours. Meanwhile, writes Seeley,

Seeley, who in his recent book Honeybee Democracy further draws out the political metaphor, clearly brings scientific cred to the table: He’s been studying bees for more than 35 years, having gone so far as to take swarms and nest boxes to a treeless island off the Maine coast to divine their home-shopping behavior. But he also is a highly readable science author who is not above admitting to a bit of wonder when the swarm finally takes to the air:

Source: Northern Woodlands, Honeybee Democracy 

Image by me’nthedogs, licensed under Creative Commons.