Bees' Methods Of Communication
Throughout the dance, the other bees crowd around the one "dancing this description" and follow its every move. They also touch its waggling abdomen with their antennae. This movement is most important, because they perceive the vibrations produced by the dancer and thus establish the distance of the food source.77 In order to describe a distance of 250 meters (820 feet), for instance, the bee will shake its abdomen 5 times in 30 seconds. It has been observed that by means of these dances, bees are able to inform one another of food sources at distances of up to 9 to 10 kilometers (5 to 6 miles).
1- If the food source lies exactly in the direction of the Sun, or in the exact opposite direction, the waggling runs in the dance will be vertical on the comb.
2- If the food source is 80 degrees to the left of the Sun, this is indicated by doing the waggling run part of the dance at a corresponding angle of 80 degrees to the left of the vertical.
3- If the bee follows an upward direction in its waggling run, it signals that the food source lies in the direction toward the Sun. And if it heads straight downwards, this means that the source lies in the exact opposite direction from the Sun.
For bees, another essential piece of information is the quality of the food at the source. This they obtain thanks to the scent that has settled on the bee performing the dance.
In the light of the information thus communicated, it is an easy matter for the other bees to find the food source. The number of bees that gather at the source is directly proportionate to the number of bees performing the dance. If a single bee performs it, the whole hive does not go into action. First, a group of scouts leaves the hive. If that group also performs the dance on their return, then more bees head towards the target. The better the food source they find, the longer they dance and the more bees follow them. In this way the food gatherers' attention is always focused on the most productive source.
|Bees watch the dancing bee in their midst, then find the food source by following the
In the event that the food source found is unproductive, the bees still dance-but they do so unwillingly, and for a shorter time. This is also reflected to the other bees in the hive, and those bees that gathered around the dancer soon disperse, and a new team leaves the hive in search of food.
Consider that the honeybees that perform the dance are just a few centimeters long, the same insects you encounter when you go outside, walk in your garden or sits out on a balcony. There's an interesting contradiction here. People regard honeybees as ordinary, familiar insects, yet the phenomena we have seen so far can only be carried out with a very definite consciousness. Were you to ask human beings to give the same directions that the bee does by dancing, they would be nowhere near as successful. That's because although human beings possess reason and consciousness, they lack the ability to perform such minute calculations without technical measuring equipment.
So who teaches bees this conscious behavior? They cannot learn it from other bees, and there is no training period in their brief lives. They come into the world already possessed of this knowledge, able to act upon it when the time comes. That applies to all the bees on Earth, who have been living on it for tens of millions of years.
We therefore find ourselves facing a major truth that no person of good conscience can possibly deny: God, the Creator of all living things, has flawlessly created honeybees and taught them such conscious behavior. As revealed in Surat an-Nahl, they act in accordance with the inspiration of our Lord.
To fully comprehend the significance of the description that bees make by dancing, we need to consider their movements in the hive and their overall environment. In her book Through Our Eyes Only?: The Search for Animal Consciousness, the evolutionist author Marian Stamp Dawkins discusses how the bees give these directions:
The problem the bees have is that they often dance on the inside of a dark hive where neither the food itself nor the sun is visible. Not only that, but they are dancing on a vertical comb when information has to be given to the other bees about which direction they should fly in the horizontal plane.78
|No two figure-eight dances are the same. To the side can be seen the direction of the great many dances performed when the food source is 80 degrees to the left of the Sun. The triangles formed by the bees as they dance show the direction of the clockwise dances, and the circles, that of the counter-clockwise dances.|
|Forager bees need not fly in a direct straight line to a food source in order to be able to tell its location. In the experiment shown at the side, Karl von Frisch had bees fly around a building between them and the food source. Yet the bees still managed to describe the location on a straight line, shown in the diagram with interrupted lines, and the other bees followed a straight line to find it.|
Although the bees giving the directions dance on a vertical surface, the bees going out to seek the food source will operate in a horizontal plane. In other words, the information about which direction they must take should actually be expressed in a horizontal plane. If the bees were to act according to directions given in a vertical plane, then they would fly straight upwards, and it would be totally impossible for them to find any food.
In her book, Dawkins continues:
The bees cannot, therefore, indicate the direction of food by simply pointing or dancing towards it. They translate the flight path from hive to food (which will eventually be taken relative to the sun) into a direction relative to gravity inside the hive and the other bees retranslate this back into instructions relative to the sun when they get outside. So if the food is to be found by flying directly into the sun, the dancer will dance so that she does the straight "waggle" run precisely vertically on the comb, whereas if the food is to be found by flying at an angle of 40 degrees to the west of the sun, she waggles 40 degrees to the left of straight vertical. She thus substitutes angle with respect to vertical for angle with respect to the sun and conveys, in the darkness of the hive, information to her companions as to the direction they should fly when they get out into the sunlight.79
If the food source they find is very rich, the dance the bees perform is very enthusiastic. If the source is nearby, they describe its location by performing the “round dance” shown on the left. For food sources that are further away, they perform the figure-eight dance seen on the right, with wagging movements.
Consider: Bees fully understand the directions, even those are given in the dark and in a different plane, and always head straight towards their target. The movements made with respect to a vertical line established by the dancing bee are fully understood by the others, which are capable of calculating angles.
In light of this, Dawkins expresses her thoughts in these terms:
The fact that they do this [calculating angles] correctly shows that bees do indeed convey information to each other.80
In short, all honeybees are able to calculate angles. Dawkins interprets this as bees conveying information to each other. However, there are important questions that require an answer. How did bees discover this method of calculation? Is it possible for the bee, simply by looking at the Sun, to distinguish between vertical and horizontal, to add the angle to the direction it gives, and always to do so accurately? How did other bees gain the ability to interpret this? How did they first learn to use the Sun as a reference?
|An experiment was performed to show that bees make use of surface shapes to recognize their surroundings. First, bees were introduced to the food source shown in the top left-hand corner. Then as soon as they left the hive for the source indicated, they were caught, brought to the point at bottom right, and released there. Even though the food source was not directly visible, the bees were able to head in the right direction, toward the food source.|
|One species of honeybee, known as the dwarf honeybee, always constructs its hives in the open. When they find a food source, they generally dance on top of the nest covered with bees (left). These bees perform the figure-eight dance to point to the food source directly. If for any reason they dance on the sides or rear of the hive, they redirect their dances again to indicate the direction of the source.|
Obviously, bees cannot calculate planes and angles and other such mathematical functions on their own. There is only one explanation for all these complex abilities in bees. Bees are directed by a superior power, which belongs to God, Ruler of all the universe, Who gives bees all their sophisticated attributes.
- 77. Ibid., pp.154-156.
- 78. Marian Stamp Dawkins, Through Our Eyes Only? The search for animal consciousness, W.H. Freeman Spektrum, pp.89-90.
- 79. Ibid., p.89.
- 80. Ibid., p.90.