Wiggles and Waggles – Communicating by Dance

Interpersonal communication is defined as the interactions between individuals and the interpretations of these actions. This can mean anything from the way you glance at a person to the strength of the grip you exert in a handshake. Your messages can even be determined by the tone in your voice or the amount of sweat you produce. But of all the ways to communicate, which sensory perception is the most effective?

beesAccording to Apoidae, the family commonly referred to as bees, dance seems to be the preferred form of communication. Scientifically speaking, bees have highly evolved adaptations, so this doesn’t seem to make too much sense.  First of all, bees have specialized vision that allows them to see beyond the human spectrum of light. Humans can see visible light from 380nm-750nm, while bees are able to see the spectrum from 300nm-600nm, an area of florescence 80nm wider than human capability. In addition, while we base our ‘trichromatic’ color combinations on red, blue, and green, bees base their colors on UV, blue, and green a much richer type of light.

Next, bees have one of the most complex chemical communication systems found in all of  nature, possessing 15 known glands that produce a wide range of pheromones (chemical messengers). If that wasn’t enough, bees can project an impressive sound.  A bee’s wings beat 11,400 times per minute (180 beats a second) causing that famous ‘buzz’ sound we know so well. So why do bees choose dance as a means to transmit their most important information? Based on a ‘waggle’ alone, bees divulge the precise location of their precious pollen and nectar- the sustenance of their hive.

How do bees even learn to dance?” Asks a WA user.

Answer: A bee’s “dance” is an instinct. They are born knowing how to do it. The “dance” communicates to other bees, showing them the way to fly in order to find the flowers that the other bee has found. The queen is not the one dancing, because she is busy laying eggs. The drone bees are the ones who fly out looking for pollen, and who “dance.” The angle between the direction the “dancing” bee is facing while vibrating its abdomen and the vertical position equals the direction to the new nectar source from the hive with respect to the sun. The duration of the waggle also gives the distance. Bees are aware of the movement of the sun during the day, so can compensate for this when using it for navigation.

Now where does that leave us? Have you ever misinterpreted a stare, or felt that the pat on the back from your boss was positive or perhaps inappropriate or maybe it was demeaning? How effective is human Couple Dancingcommunication compared to a bees instinctual dancing? Is dancing more successful at conveying messages than touching or visual and auditory cues? Perhaps it would be better if we just stood in front of an audience and wiggled a bit from a distance while others interpreted what we were trying to say? (Simon Cowell seems to have a good time doing this). Well, I think we can find our answer to this question by looking to Wikianswers. “Why do people Dance?”

Answer: Dance is the only socially sanctioned physical contact between unmarried couples, the only way to interact with the opposite sex in an intimate, politically correct way.

So there you have it – Humans dance for the potential to meet love. Afterall,  Isn’t love as sweet as nectar?

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