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Wednesday 16th July 2014

Bees have been big news recently owing to their becoming increasingly endangered. Don’t worry – this isn’t yet another piece about why we should protect bees, rather I thought it would be nice to understand a little bit more about how they work.

After watching Hive Alive on BBC 2 last night, I was fascinated by just how intelligent bees are.

So how do they navigate? Why do they skip some flowers over others? How do they communicate with one another about where the best flowers can be found?

First up navigation. On their first flight out of the hive, the bee will complete a circuit around the hive, mapping the surrounding area and locating land marks so they can find their way back again.

When a bee has come back from a successful pollination trip, they communicate to the other bees in the hive by moving in a figure of 8 and waggling their bottom in the direction of the pollen. The speed of the wiggle shows how far away the location is. Following this, other bees can then go on and continue to pollinate the surrounding areas. Although bees work alone when they’re outside of the hive, it’s very much a team effort when it comes to locating the pollen and keeping the hive going.

Last but by no means least, why do they skip some flowers over others? The answer is down to electrosonic signals. These are communicated between the bee and the flowers. Flowers will let off one signal if there is pollen to be collected and another if they don’t have any, therefore saving the bee from investigating empty flowers. This communication is mutually beneficial, ensuring that the flowers that need it get pollinated and if they are already empty, the bee doesn’t waste any time.

There’s much more about how our bees work and the hidden life behind those yellow and black stripes, you can find out more by watching Hive Alive on BBC Iplayer here:

If you know any interesting facts about bees or have any commens on hive alive let us know via social media.

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