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Bee Waggle Dance

Animals communicate in many ways. In this activity, students learn about the unique way that bees communicate with each other, by learning and practicing bee waggles.

Bees don’t have hands or mouths the same way that humans do. Instead, they use different ways to communicate with each other. One of the ways that scientists that bees share information about where the best nectar and flowers are is by doing a waggle dance!

Scientists believe that the duration of the waggle indicates the distance to the flower patch. The more vigorous the waggle (mild versus strong shaking) indicates the abundance of the nectar source, as does repeating the dance. The angle of the waggle to the sun represents the angle that the bees have to fly at to find the flowers.

Watch the Green Dotted Bee Waggle!

Objectives

  • Describe the importance of pollinators in nature.

  • List a few characteristics of common pollinators (birds, bees, butterflies).

Materials

  • Per Class:
    large area to run around
    objects to represent flowers (i.e. bean bags, coloured paper, buckets etc)

Key Questions

  • What is the benefit of using a dance to communicate?

What To Do

Preparation

  1. As a class, watch a video on the bee waggle dance so that the students become familiar with the movements of a bee.
  2. Let the students know that the complex movements of the bee will be modified for the game waggle game they will play.
  3. Have them practice being a bee.

Instructions to be a bee:

  • To show the direction of the flower, have students waggle in the direction of the flower.
  • To show the distance to the flower is, have the students modify the number of waggles. One waggle = one big step.
  • To show that the flower has a lot of nectar, students should waggle more energetically.

For example, if the flower is 5 steps away the student would start by waggling towards the flower. Five steps translates to five waggles before turning around. Also, if this flower has a lot of nectar, the student can indicate this by waggling vigorously.

Game play:

  1. Assign one student to represent the bee. The other students will close their eyes or leave the game area.
  2. The game area will have many different “flowers” scattered around. Point to the flower that has the nectar. Let the student know if this flower contains a lot or just a little nectar. This will be the flower the student will try to get the class to find.
  3. When the student is ready, the student will waggle towards the flower (without going to it) and do as many loops/figure 8’s as the number of steps it takes to get to the flower. When the student is done, have the class guess which flower they had to find.
  4. Repeat with different flowers and bee volunteers.

Extensions

  • Reflect as a group. Would this work for humans?
  • How do you think other pollinators communicate the locations of flowers?

Other Resources

Smithsonian | Video |  What’s the Waggle Dance ? And Why Do Honey Bees Do it?