On the accuracy of the distance message in the dances of honey bees.
The duration of tail wagging in dances performed by foraging honeybees, returning from feeders at distances between 20 and 500 m, was analysed in 9 feral colonies from Brazil, and 6 from the USA (although Brazilian bees did not perform wagtail dances for feeders as close as 20 m). The statistical distribution of periods of tail wagging was not normal in 71.1% of cases. There was a tendency to longer times in 83.3% of non-normal cases (skewed right), and to shorter times in 11.9% (skewed left); 57.1% had a sharper peak than a normal distribution. The slopes of the functions describing the relationship between mean period of tail wagging and feeder distance varied between 0.0007 and 0.0020 s/m for the various colonies, whereas the standard deviation of individual periods of tail wagging was similar for bees from different colonies. (The mean of the standard deviations was plus or minus 0.14 s, increasing by plus or minus 0.025 s for every 100-m feeder distance.) Thus, the degree of error in communicated distance varied remarkably between colonies. In 85% of cases there was a significant added variance component due to within-individual and between-individuals error. Because of the great differences in accuracy between colonies, the published data could not be used to calculate approach (distance + direction) accuracies or recruitment errors. D. G. Lowe