Updated: Apr 9, 2018
The generally accepted reason for the waggle dance may be wrong. It may be just a case of post decision rationalisation on behalf of Karl von Frisch and for which he received a Nobel Prize. Beginners accept it as received wisdom before they can judge it accuracy. It must be accepted that bees dance, since we have all seen it. There must be a reason, but if not to give direction and distance to forage then why do it.
Suspicions about the veracity of the waggle dance as a direct method of communicating the location of forage is based on a number of observations as follows:-
1. Each dace sequence can vary in direction over the dance duration.
2. When the frame is tuned face up the dancing bees continue to dance yet the basis for doing it has gone. (Vertical equals sun position)
3. A triangular dance is sometimes seen. What is that for?
4. Direction to forage is not needed. If a designated line is followed the source can be found by olfaction where near. Why worry about distance? The length of the dance is claimed to represent the distance to the forage. What is the scale? Is it based on time travelled or distance?
5. This dance information is apparently conveyed to dance followers, but in a dark hive how is this done.
6. Dance followers face the dancer and hold out their antenna. Why?
The dance may not be the direct cause of the effect of bees foraging where they would not otherwise do so. The dance may be to attract dance followers in a dark hive by vibrating the comb rather like a town criers bell. The dance may be the precursor to giving directions to dance followers by antenna touching or by some other means.
If so, antenna touching must be described as a language in which abstract concepts for giving directions is possible, as in humans.
On page 101 of "The buzz about bees" Mr. Jurgen Tautz refers to the experiment where dancer bees have previously flown down a deception tunnel which deceives the bee into thinking she has flown much farther than she has. He concludes that:
"It explained and settled the decade-long controversy about the waggle dance, in which it was disputed whether or not the recruited bees followed the information coded in the waggle tail dance. The tunnel enabled one to produce bees that made errors, visiting feeding sites 6m. away from the hive, but in their dance signalling a distance 30 times longer. Searching recruits were not found flying around where the dancing bee really came from, but in an area much further away where there was nothing of interest. Information from the dance is (therefore) used".
This may not be the correct conclusion. It may mean that the information has indeed been transferred, but not necessarily by the waggle tail dance.