Honeybees have long been known to communicate using a "whooping" noise that's inaudible to human ears. While scientists have assumed that these communications were used as 'stop signals' for other bees trying to forage, new research shows that, adorably, the noise might just be conveying surprise. It's well known that honeybees communicate through vibrational signals, but why the bees actually make them has been up for debate. Back in the s, scientists suggested that the vibration signal was used as a request for food, as they observed that the noise was often followed by the bees exchanging meals. Later, researchers also noticed that the noise was used to inhibit another bee from performing a waggle dance — a form of communication used to tell other bees where to go to forage.
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Listen to the Betty Boops of the insect world as they "boop oop a doop" in the hive. And I thought the squeaks of a baby sloth were cute? Well, they are So it isn't new news that honeybees make a vibrational pulse to communicate. Sam Wong writes in New Scientist that while scientists have known about this signaling since the s, they first speculated that it indicated a request for food. But new research has an update to those theories: The vibrational pulse — AKA the cute whoop — could actually be an expression of surprise. While inaudible to our feeble human ears, with the aid of accelerometers embedded in the honeycomb, researcher Martin Bencsik and his team from the UK's Nottingham Trent University were able to record the vibrations from within the hive. Over the course of a year, they discovered that the signal was significantly more frequent than previously thought. With these recordings, they were also able to determine that the whoops occurred mostly in the evening — which isn't prime waggle-dance time. Even more enlightening, a soft knock on the hive wall elited a collective whoop from hundreds of bees all at the same time.
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But they can also use their wing muscles to produce pulses of vibration that are inaudible to humans — which they use to communicate. But exactly what message it conveys is a matter or some debate. These observations suggested that the signal had another meaning than previously thought.
February 15, A honeybee signal — widely thought to be used by bees in the hive to prevent one another from advertising the location of food — could also be a response to being startled or surprised, according to scientists. Researchers at Nottingham Trent University monitored the vibrations passed between bees in a bid to learn more about the 'stop signal', used by the insects to warn of potential dangers outside the hive. The researchers argue that the signal, which appears as a 'whooping' sound, occurs in many instances when it is not purely inhibitory.