Honey Bees and Homing Senses

Studying the habits of bees, it seems, is hard work! Since scientists have found it extremely difficult to follow the bees, learning it’s homing ability has been a reach until recently. According to the New York Times, scientists have found a way to outfit honey bees with a little antenna-transponder. (Now if THAT doesn’t stir up a mental image)

What they have found is that bees normally do not fly in all directions around the hive. A bee will have one or two quadrants in which it explores. After the first journey, each subsequent trip is in the same direction, but the bee flies faster, so it covers more ground. This suggests that the bees learn the area from exploring it from different positions.

One study tried to investigate how a bee gauged distance traveled to find honey, which it would then communicate to the others through a dance. It appeared they gauged visually how much distance they had traveled. The longer the dance, the longer they had to travel.

Honey Bees transform from little workers into travelers looking for food at about 2 weeks of age. Scientists have discovered that just around this time, a gene, aptly named the foraging gene is rapidly increased in the parts of the brain that interprets spatial and visual information. This enables them to determine landmarks while exploring territory to find food, then finding their way home again. They also orient themselves to the sun.

It has been documented by researchers that Honey Bees have a receptor which acts as a sort of homing “device” or sense by aligning itself with the magnetic field of the earth. More current studies, as indicated would show the visual and spatial data also helps guide the bee’s home. In some studies, the results were unclear. The Bee Journal revealed a test in which the bees were taken from the hive from which they had learned to “home,” and taken to a test site. The Bees found their way home none-the-less. It would explain the visual theory, in the case of locating landmarks, but casts doubt on the spatial theory.

The most compelling new theory that substantiates the magnetic sense of the bee is a growing phenomenon called “colony collapse disorder.” Apparently, millions of Honey Bees are leaving the hive never to return. It is the Bee Keepers who are discovering the link between electromagnetic emissions of the Ground Wave Emergency Network, also known as “GLEN.” It has been noted that the emissions can cause a misdirection of up to 10 degrees in the Bees. They get “lost” and without the queen, they cannot survive, so they die. Newmediaexplorer.org documented the following:
“At Cornell Univ. honeybees in a hive relocated into a new building became disoriented. After extensive research ruled out other causes, someone noticed the hive was next to the building’s electric transformer. The bees were confused by 60 Hz magnetism strong enough to interfere with homing and communication to gather nectar and pollen.”

It naturally follows that with GWEN, microwave arrays, and mobile phone radiation, the bees are losing their homing “sense.” The studies continue, and with bee’s being such difficult creatures to study, it may be some time before we can understand it all.