Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Science

Bees Communicate With Electric Fields 133

Posted by samzenpus
from the buzz-of-buzzing dept.
sciencehabit writes "The electric fields that build up on honey bees as they fly, flutter their wings, or rub body parts together may allow the insects to talk to each other, a new study suggests. Tests show that the electric fields, which can be quite strong, deflect the bees' antennae, which, in turn, provide signals to the brain through specialized organs at their bases. Antenna deflections induced by an electrically charged honey bee wing are about 10 times the size of those that would be caused by airflow from the wing fluttering at the same distance—a sign that electrical fields could be an important signal."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Bees Communicate With Electric Fields

Comments Filter:
  • If that is true, I guess the mother nature is far more advanced than I could even imagine. Sonar, ok, infrared sensors, ok, antibiotics, ok, aero/hydro dynamics, ok, but electric field communication, wtf? I thought this domain solely belonged to human race.
    • Evolution is pretty cool. At that scale static becomes a bigger part of the environment. It makes sense that it might be incorporated and improved upon. I've often wondered. We see electromagnetic waves with nerves that pick up different wavelengths. If brains also put out electromagnetic waves it seems that at least from a biological standpoint it wouldn't be too far fetched for a nerve mutation to pick those up. Perhaps a crude telepathy could develop or a better sense for when someone's standing beh
    • by msauve (701917) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @08:57PM (#43298995)
      "Bees Communicate With Electric Fields"

      So, what do the electric fields have to say? Should we be welcoming our electric field overlords?
    • by osu-neko (2604)
      Sure, why not? After all, fish invented tasers [wikipedia.org] long before we did, why not other electric toys?
      • I have *NOT* heard of fish dildos before. Please do share.

        • by Anonymous Coward
          Ummm... electric eels.

          Not suggested for use as a dildo unless you want an experience you will not ever forget.
          • Those things will kill you. In 2010, a healthy 30 year old British woman died of a heart attack from over-stimulation by her vibrator, proving that too much of a good thing is no good for you.

            http://newsflavor.com/world/usa-canada/girl-dies-from-arousal/ [newsflavor.com]

            • Yeah, but what a way to go
    • toxygen01, or rather, Bill Simpleton (my nickname for you), this is God. I'm glad you think I'm 'far more advanced than I[Bill] could even imagine'.

      And no, none of the domains you list belong to the human race. You only sort of partially understand them.

    • If you haven't died of a heart attack yet, plants beat us to finding a use for quantum entanglement [lbl.gov], too.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by oztiks (921504)

      So you're shocked by the fact that Bees use electricity to communicate?

      Is that like being puzzled to learn that Mice can find cheese in a maze?

    • Bees have been evolving for over 100 million years and they've evolved from wasps which have been evolving for over 400 million years IIRC. Only humanity has the hubris to underestimate creatures that could survive for so long. I would expect they will still be here long after we're gone.

      Don't feel too bad; biologists are notorious for underestimating the creatures on this planet. It wouldn't surprise me if we we're a good 100 years behind the knowledge we should have about them because of it.

      • Professor Falken believes that the bees are the next species to take over the earth after we destroy ourselves from nuclear weapons. And, he's the very smart man who built the W.O.P.R. computer.

        "Want to play a game?"

    • by XiaoMing (1574363)

      If that is true, I guess the mother nature is far more advanced than I could even imagine. Sonar, ok, infrared sensors, ok, antibiotics, ok, aero/hydro dynamics, ok, but electric field communication, wtf? I thought this domain solely belonged to human race.

      If that is true, I guess the mother nature is far more advanced than I could even imagine. Sonar, ok, infrared sensors, ok, antibiotics, ok, aero/hydro dynamics, ok, but electric field communication, wtf? I thought this domain solely belonged to human race.

      Haha was the remainder of that post just used to justify your punny subject line? Sharks have actually been using electric fields for quite awhile to hunt various prey. And while I woudln't be surprised if it were true, the summary doesn't really suggest causality or even correlation with the bees, it just says "this number is big, it must be useful for something!". Odd for scientists to do that...

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ampullae_of_Lorenzini [wikipedia.org]

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Sharks have been able to sense electric fields [wikipedia.org] for a very long time, migratory birds see magnetic fields [dailymail.co.uk], good luck sorting out the venemous platypus [wikipedia.org] and all its strangeness... natural processes have had hundreds of millions of years to get a head start on us.

      I think most people are no longer surprised by such things. Nature has been at this stuff way longer than we've even existed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @07:57PM (#43298673)

    So, this may suggest that our ever increasing use of EM may be responsible for colony collapse disorders.

    • by Darinbob (1142669) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @09:02PM (#43299031)

      Unexplained? We've had several stories about bees and pesticides, including just today: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21958547 [bbc.co.uk].
      It's only unexplained if you think there's something more sinister at work than common poison.

    • by MachDelta (704883)

      Quick! Build giant faraday cages over all the worlds beehives!

      Also, another thought; I wonder how well a simple radio tuned to spew out the right frequency of noise would work for pest control.
      Stuff a few batteries in it, turn it on, and place it next to the hive... would it get rid of the bees (and/or other similar insects) with minimal fuss and insecticides?
      Should I be running to the nearest patent office?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually, the mass extinction of bees lately has been traced back to a Bayer pesticide. One of the most used ones. I saw a press release or something where Bayer themselves admitted to it in a convoluted way.

      Strangely, a few days later, it couldn't be found anymore, and a "article" on Snopes popped up, calling it "fake", based on bullshit references that were horribly bad and didn't state anything, and vague unsubstantiated claims.

      I'm sorry. I have seen Bayer admitting it. On their own site. And no statemen

    • by msauve (701917)
      "this may suggest that our ever increasing use of EM may be responsible for colony collapse disorders."

      Except, it doesn't. [usda.gov] Maybe if the bees wore tin foil hats?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      http://www.enn.com/wildlife/article/38233

      "The Italian government banned the use of several neonicotinoid pesticides that are blamed for the deaths of millions of honeybees. The Ministero del Lavoro della Salute e delle Politiche Sociali issued an immediate suspension of the seed treatment products clothianidin, imidacloprid, fipronil and thiamethoxam used in rapeseed oil, sunflowers and sweetcorn. The Italian government will start a monitoring program to further investigate the reasons of recent bee deaths.

    • No, this is electrostatic field communication. Radio or even microwave isn't going to have any effect on it. Even the shorter wavelengths, down to the visible range, can be ignored for all but a few materials that demonstrate light-dependant resistance (Handy in photocopiers).

  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @08:00PM (#43298703)
    I wonder if this can be linked in any way to the dramatic drop in honeybee populations? Does the population drop-off begin near the implementation of any new wireless technology? Correlation may not lead to causation, but it has been known to lead to wild speculation.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Unlikely - the frequencies of the wireless technologies are many orders of magnitude higher than anything associated with a physical wing vibration. The dramatic drop in honeybee population is more likely tied to certain nicotine-derived insecticides [npr.org]. Hmm, an insecticide harming insects? Didn't see that one coming.

  • I don't see why science has such difficulty accepting that the noises birds make are a language, that the interractions of bees are communication, that elephants communicate over vast distances using noises too low a frequency for the human ear to detect or that whales can and do communicate over vast distances.

    What? It isn't real if we can't prove it? That's just plain silly.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's not a matter of IF, it's a matter of HOW.

    • I don't know that science has difficulty with it. It's pretty accepted that other animals and plants [google.com] can communicate is some fashion. It's just depends on how language is defined. Dogs can communicate by peeing on trees, is that a language? If a plant emits a foul odor when threatened and that chemical triggers the release of more in nearby plants to drive the herbivore away is that a language? Does communication==language or is language a specific subset of communication?
      • Generally, language would be considered a subset of communication. However, if you gather two linguists, you will end up with three definitions of language.

        It is generally seen as probably the most important distinctive property of human languages compared to other modes of communication that human languages are open-ended, i.e. capable of forming an essentially unlimited set of expressions. This is not the case for any known animal communication system. There have been several other properties proposed as

    • ...but science is how you know these things are happening. I'm not seeing if you have a point here at all.
  • True Bee fact (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SternisheFan (2529412) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @08:08PM (#43298739)
    Over it's lifetime the average bee will produce only 1/10 of a teaspoon of honey.

    The more you know...

    • But if you could interbreed African bees with European bees you could get the higher production of African bees in tropical environments with the docile behavior of European bees. Of course you'd want to make sure and keep them under tight wraps until you get the kinks worked out. :)
      • But if you could interbreed African bees with European bees you could get the higher production of African bees in tropical environments with the docile behavior of European bees. Of course you'd want to make sure and keep them under tight wraps until you get the kinks worked out. :)

        Indeed. [wikipedia.org]

  • It might be a good idea to use a consistent vocabulary to describe uncertainty in the title and the summary.

    • by msauve (701917)
      Not only that, but there is a very significant difference between bees communicating "with electric fields", and communicating by using electric fields.
  • Upon reading the summary, I discover the much less amazing story that bees may communicate with other bees using electrical fields. Call me when we discover the sentient electrical fields.
  • Waggle dance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spottywot (1910658) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @08:56PM (#43298993)
    It occurred to me initially, that if the effect is only really noticeable after flight then the only information that they could usefully communicate by this method would be how recently they had completed a flight. It then occurred to me that bees perform a waggle dance [google.com] which is believed to instruct other bees in the hive where to find food sources. The electrostatic effect on the antenna would be most effective at this time, and also seems to solve one of my issues with the waggle dance theory, which is that it seems most effective as a visual form of communication when viewed from above, which of course the bees do not do.The electrostatic explanation would work, as the dance could manipulate the antennea in the manner of an operator inputting directions using a joystick.
  • The research only shows that bees can sense the electric fields of other bees. We don't even know whether bees are able to control their own electric fields, claiming that they communicate with each other that way is a bit of a stretch.

  • Don't bother me. I'm Bz.
  • If the bees are communicating via electrical signals that means it can be intercepted and understood in the long run. So google will be mining the bees conversations and injecting ads into it for netflix and cheap canadian meds. They are doomed!
  • by Ryanrule (1657199)

    So bees essentially have a method of short range physic communication.
    Ima fill this under "damn awesome."

  • The synopsis speaks that the electrical field MAY allow communications. But the title make it definitive.
  • I guess that's how they make their Foursquare check-ins and Facebook status updates? colonydrone223311: suckin' some nectar (22122 likes) colonydrone243354: stung a human.. lost my needle, monday's suck pesticide.. lol
  • So THIS must be where that buzzing sound is coming from...

  • Experiements Suggest That Bees Communicate With Electric Fields

    FTFY...

Science and religion are in full accord but science and faith are in complete discord.

Working...