Do Bees Have Ears?

Do you Know the Anatomy of Bees? Do they Have Ears? How do they Detect Sounds? How do they Communicate? What do the Buzzing Sounds tell about Bees?

Everyone would have come across the Buzzing Sound of Bees in their Life at least once. Have you ever wondered what’s that buzzing sound for? Now to your mind-tinkling questions, do bees have ears? One of the significant members of the class Insecta, Bees play a major role in the process of pollination. For years scientists wondered over the question, do bees have ears? If so, can bees hear? Let’s just see a bit more about bees before diving into the above questions.

1. What are the Types of Bees?

In general, if you speak of bees, the first thought is of honeybees. But do you know that there are 16,000 known varieties of bees classified into six biological families? Also, bees exist all across the world except for regions having extreme cold climatic conditions like Antarctica. Some of the common bees are

2. What is the Anatomy of Bees?

The anatomy of bees is said to consist of 

  • Pair of Compound Eyes,
  • Antennae containing sensory organs,
  • Mandibles,
  • Proboscis for sucking nectar from flowers, thorax, and an abdomen. (See 4 No Stripe Zebra Facts)

If you notice, there is no mention of ears. So, do bees have ears? Anatomically the bees don’t have ears. But how do they detect sounds?

3. Can Bees Hear?

Do bees have ears? For many years people considered bees to be completely deaf. Only after the research done by Towne and Kirchner in 1989, did it come to the knowledge that bees can’t hear but they can sense sounds without the help of ears. This raises the question of how do bees sense sounds? (See Can it Rain Spiders?)

4. How do Bees detect Sounds?

As far as the research concludes, bees detect sounds through these organs,

  • The antennae present in their head contains organs not only to sense, smell, and taste but also to help in detecting the movement of the air particles which happens when sounds are produced.
  • The tiny legs of the bees also possess subgenual organs which are usually involved in the perception of sounds. So the bees produce sounds and communicate through subgenual glands present in their legs. The process involves detecting sound produced from substrate-borne vibrations i.e., the vibrations produced from the surface from which the organism grows or takes nutrients. For example, fungi are the substrate for rock. (See Why do bugs are attracted to lights?)

5. What is the Infamous Waggle Dance?

You all know honeybees collect nectar from flowers. If the nectar collected from a particular flower is good, the honeybee which tasted the nectar will come back to the hive and communicate about it with the other bees. How? They communicate through their infamous waggle dance. If you haven’t seen it yet, then you must! Ironically sounds play an important role in their communication. The waggle dance involves the movement of the abdomen and wings simultaneously at short frequencies. (See How to Grow Purple Sunflowers?)

The buzzing sound created by the wings of bees creates a movement of air particles. The vibration caused by the oscillation of the air particles disturbs the two thin flagella of bees and the vibration is stored by the sensory cells present in the antennae otherwise called Johnston’s organs. The dancing bee produces up to sound vibrations say 300-400 Hertz which is less than the vibrations that can be detected by the bees in general i.e., and according to scientists, the sensory cells are sensitive to up to 500 Hertz. So this waggle dance is specially done for communicating the direction and distance of the tasty nectar. (See Do Anteaters Eat Ants?)

6. What are the different Buzzing Sounds?

Apart from answering do bees have ears, it has been proved through experiments that bees can detect air-borne sounds by interrupting the air-borne vibrations. Another one of the fascinating things is that the buzzing sounds made by bees are not the same in every case and not every bee makes the same sounds. If you listen closely, the buzzing sounds differ depending on the situation. By research and observation, it is known that,

  • Guard bees rock back and forth emitting short bursts of sound in case of intrusion.
  • Worker bees produce sharp loud buzzing sounds followed by faint beeps if the hive has been jarred.
  • Forager bees produce vibrations similar to piping sounds to make the bees gather in one place. (See How to Get Rid of Gnats without Apple Cider Vinegar?)

7. What do the Buzzing Sounds tell about Bees?

The buzzing sound is also a reflection of how the bees feel angry, calm, excited, etc. Although the buzzing sound produced by bees sounds similar, the emotion through which they exhibit it depends on the frequency of the vibrations they cause.

Even among the Clade Anthophilia though the frequency through which the vibrations are caused are similar, it varies on the situation. For example, the honeybees Apis mellifera, Paravespula Germanica (social wasps), and Vespa Orientalis (oriental hornets) have constant frequency they differ according to purpose. It is also said that the intensity of the buzz might reduce as they grow older. (See How to Describe Crocodile?)

So, today in this article you got to know about the answers to do bees have ears and can bees hear. Technically, no. You also learned about the different buzzing sounds and how they hear. (Also read Do Sheep Sleep?)

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