Centennial Museum gecko logo

Desert Diary

Insects/Bee Communication


This page was designed with CSS, and looks best in a CSS-aware browser--which, unfortunately, yours is not. However, the document should still be readable, though not presented in the most sophisticated manner.

Sure, we've all seen a dog flatten its ears and growl, and we've heard of whales that sing, so it should come as no surprise that animals communicate in various ways. No, that sweetly singing bird isn't really singing for you. Birds court each other—and warn intruders not to enter their territory—by singing. But even relatively simple animals can communicate complex ideas.

As some may remember from the movie, "A Bug's Life", ants follow chemical signals called pheromones that lead to a food source. But one of nature's most amazing forms of communication is a dance performed by the honeybee. A bee that has found a wealth of flowers dances to tell other bees where to go. The bee uses the position of the sun as a guide for the others, but even more amazing is that as the sun changes position, the bee modifies her dance so those watching will still be able to fly straight to the food source.

These remarkable insects have, indeed, established a form of communication that is currently beyond our ability to fully comprehend. pen and ink


Contributor: Kodi R. Jeffery, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.


bee drawing

The Honey Bee, Apis mellifera. After Lutz, 1921.



Lindauer, M. 1961. Communication among social bees. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

von Frisch, K. 1957. The Dance Language and Orientation of Bees. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

Web Resources

Entomology Notes