Hearing in Honey Bees: Detection of Air-Particle Oscillations

Science  12 May 1989:
Vol. 244, Issue 4905, pp. 686-688
DOI: 10.1126/science.244.4905.686


Although the airborne sounds produced by dancing honey bees seem essential in the bees' dance communication, attempts to show directly that bees can detect airborne sounds have been unsuccessful. It is shown here that bees can in fact detect airborne sounds and that they do so by detecting air-particle movements. Most vertebrates, by contrast, detect pressure oscillations. Because all traveling sound waves have both components, either can be used in sound detection. The bees' acoustic sense appears to be sensitive enough to allow bees to detect the air-particle movements that occur within several millimeters of a sound-emitting dancer.