Navigation and dance communication of the honey bee
Social insects like the honey bees (Apis mellifera) cooperate and communicate with each other. Nest mates are informed by the waggle dance about the distance, direction and quality of resources. Recruited bees have to solve the task to find the indicated resource using the information it has acquired during orientation flights and foraging flights. Bees are known to refer to visual (sun compass, landmarks), olfactory and magnetic cues. Karl von Frisch was the first who realized that bees use several mechanisms for navigation, and it is believed that these are organized hierarchically. Although a lot of research has been performed to unravel the mechanisms of navigation and dance communication in bees it is still not known what knowledge base bees are referring to when navigating according to the information transmitted by the dance and their former experience.
We will try to answer some of these questions using the harmonic radar technique which enables us to track the flight paths of the bees over a distance of about 1 km radius. A dipole radar transponder will be attached to the thorax of the bee. This transponder receives a signal sent out by one radar antenna and sends the signal of different frequency back to the second antenna of the radar.
In a first series of experiments we shall focus on the structure of the orientation flights of inexperienced bees. Then we shall address the question whether reorientation of these bees depends on which region of the landscape they have explored in their orientation flights.