In their wild untamed environment it is common for honeybees to outgrow their hive. When this happens several thousand worker bees will leave the nest with the queen to establish a new colony. Before this mass exodus takes place a few hundred of the oldest and most experienced scout bees will fly out in search of a new dwelling. When the experienced scouts return they perform the famous ‘waggle dance’, commonly used for informing the hive about a potential food source.
This is where it gets really interesting.....
It turns out that the honeybees choose the new site by essentially head-butting each other into a consensus! When each scout bee returns it starts to perform it’s ‘waggle dance’ advising the distance, quality and direction of the new potential dwelling. They carefully adjust how long they dance based on the overall quality of the potential site. After a while the bee will stop dancing and go for a wander around the hive to find other scouts also performing the dance. When another scout is located it’s dance will be observed and if it is noted to be less efficient than their own findings they will issue a ‘stop command’ via a head-butt. Once the scout bee receives enough ‘head butts’ it will stop its dance, decreasing the support for that particular location. Through this amazing process the best location is chosen and it is a collective choice.
These ‘Stop signals’ are also used to decrease the number of bees foraging from a potentially harmful food source.
It is absolutely mind blowing how complex these small creatures are. The decisions that are made for their very survival are a collective decision. They are made through consensus and the whole hive functions as one brain. There is an overwhelming display of common unity.