Unlocking secrets of the honeybee dance language – bees learn and culturally transmit their communication skills
The Greek historian Herodotus reported over 2,000 years ago on a misguided forbidden experiment in which two children were prevented from hearing human speech so that a king could discover the true, unlearned language of human beings.
Scientists now know that human language requires social learning and interaction with other people, a property shared with multiple animal languages. But why should humans and other animals need to learn a language instead of being born with this knowledge, like many other animal species?
Astonishingly, honeybees possess one of the most complicated examples of nonhuman communication. They can tell each other where to find resources such as food, water, or nest sites with a physical “waggle dance.” This dance conveys the direction, distance and quality of a resource to the bee’s nestmates.