Bees have devised a very effective method of communicating information about sources of food using a ROUND DANCE and a WAGGLE DANCE (or figure of eight). The dances do not appear to indicate the height of the food above ground level and in most cases this is not important since to a bee the source will be obvious.
This is used when the source of food (nectar or pollen) is less than 100 metres away. The bee dancing goes in a circle on the comb first one way, she turns round and then the other way round the circle. Food is passed from the dancing bee to those watching and following giving information about it’s taste and smell. The round dance does not appear to tell the bees in which direction to go to the food source just that the food “is close to the hive and tastes and smells like this”.
For food supplies more than 100 metres the waggle dance is used. The bee will run in a direction on the comb which indicates direction relative to the sun’s position. The bee uses the force of gravity (vertically downwards) as the position of the sun and if say the food is 30 ° to the left of the sun then the bee will dance 30 ° to the left of the vertical on the frame. Whilst the bee is indicating direction she waggles her body from side to side to indicate distance to the food source. The more waggles the closer the food source is to the hive.
The waggle dance gives both direction and distance to the food source and by tasting the food the bee knows what to look for.