Bee Dance

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A Bee Dance is a type of behavior performed by scout bees returning from a hunt for food and other resources outside the hive. Each dance pattern contains resource location instructions for the other bees.[1] It is also commonly known by the term waggle dance. The meaning of the dance was first translated by Austrian ethologist Karl von Frisch.[2]


In the digital realm, the bee dance takes the form of a hyperlink shared between one person to many others. Examples of bee dance behavior in humans can be seen on social networks in the form of posted URLs in status updates. Short URLs are a more efficient form of bee dance than long URLs.

The bee dance is an appropriate metaphor for other reasons as well. Many linguists understand the defining feature of human language to be syntax (rules for the combination of individual signs to create novel meanings). While dogs have basic signals (wag tail, whine, bark, etc.), they do not have rules for stringing these elements together to form novel semantic meaning. We have some evidence that monkeys have simple syntax[3], but few other animals exhibit syntactic structure. The one major exception is the bee dance. Each component of the dance acts as a specifically placed unit in the whole so bees can communicate complicated directions to the rest of the hive. Thought about this way, the bee dance references the ability of individual nodes in a hive mind to send directions to other nodes using highly structured form of language. Sound familiar?


  1. Seeley T.D., Visscher P.K., Passino K.M. (2006). "Group decision making in honey bee swarms". American Scientist 94: 220–229.
  2. Frisch, Karl von. The Dance Language and Orientation of Bees. Cambridge, Mass. 1967. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
  3. Wade, Nicholas. Boom! Hok! A Monkey Language Is Deciphered. NYTimes Science Blog. New York Times Online. Published December 7, 2009. Accessed 22 Sept 2012.