Dear Buzz About Bees
Do bees have ears?
- Brad, USA
The short answer is:
No, bees do not have ears, however, they are able to pick up sound, so yes, in a sense they can ‘hear’ but not through the use of ears.
Several research experiments have confirmed this.
In 1989, researchers Towne and Kirchner managed to train bees to leave a feeder in response to a sound signal, and in order to avoid a mild electric shock.
Later, in 1991, Kirchner et al trained bees to turn left or right as they entered a feeder, depending on a sound signal.
So far as scientists can make out, bees may use:
At the time of writing this page, it’s not clear how bumble bees or solitary bees pick up sound, although we might guess they pick up sounds in similar ways to honey bees.
When honey bees perform their famous waggle dance, a dancing bee waggles her abdomen and vibrates her wings.
The vibrations and sounds she creates are then detected by other members of the colony, (Michelsen et al. 1986a; Dreller and Kirchner 1993a; Michelsen 2003), such that she is able to transmit important information to other colony members.
Sound is important in honey bee communication. Honey bees use a range of piping and buzzing sounds in the nest that are picked up by other bees, and are used to communicate and affect behaviour of the colony.
For example, a small group of experienced forager bees called 'nest-site scouts' produce a "piping-signal" that primes the workers for swarming (Rangel, 2008).
You can read more about this on my page about how and why bees buzz.
The following references are provided for further information:
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