Effects of pollen quality and genotype on the dance of foraging honey bees

Keith D. Waddington, C. Mindy Nelson, Robert E. Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Animals assess the quality and quantity of food and choose among different foods based on these assessments. We explored whether there was genetic variation for assessment of pollen quality by foraging honey bees, Apis mellifera. Honey bees derived from two genotypic strains foraged for pollen of varying quality from a petri dish placed inside an outdoor flight cage. The strains were the result of a colony-level, two-way selection on amount of stored pollen. We used the forager's round dance to quantify the assessments of pollen quality by individually marked worker bees. The dance rate (number of 180°turns per minute) and the probability of dancing were each greater when bees foraged for pure pollen compared with a lower-quality mixture of pollen and alpha-cellulose (1:1 by volume). Bees from the high-pollen genotypic strain had a higher dance rate than those from the low-pollen strain, suggesting different assessments. Bees from the low-pollen strain, however, had a higher probability of dancing than did bees from the high-pollen strain. Dance duration was not affected by a bee's strain or by the quality of pollen. We conclude that the dance rate may be used to quantify a forager's subjective evaluation of pollen quality and that this evaluation has a genetic component. Our results also suggest that the dance may function at the colony level to recruit bees to more profitable pollen sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-39
Number of pages5
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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