Polarized Light Guides Honeybees To Honey Source

AsianScientist     1/21/14

Honeybees use the pattern of polarized light in the sky, invisible to humans, to direct one another to a honey source, according to a study.

Scientists have found that honeybees use the pattern of polarized light in the sky invisible to humans to direct one another to a honey source.

The study, conducted by Professor Mandyam Srinivasan from the Queensland Brain Institute at The University of Queensland, demonstrated that bees navigate to and from honey sources by reading the pattern of polarized light in the sky.

The discovery, published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, shines new light on the astonishing navigational and communication skills of an insect with a brain the size of a pinhead.

“The bees tell each other where the nectar is by converting their polarized ‘light map’ into dance movements,” said Srinivasan. “The more we find out how honeybees make their way around the landscape, the more awed we feel at the elegant way they solve very complicated problems of navigation that would floor most people – and then communicate them to other bees.”

The researchers allowed bees to fly down a tunnel to a sugar source, shining only polarized light from above, either aligned with the tunnel or at right angles to the tunnel. They then filmed what the bees ‘told’ their peers, by...

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Abstract: http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/369/1636/20130037.abstract