Sleepy Bees Lose Their Rhythm

Sleep deprived and having trouble communicating? You aren’t alone. Drowsy honey bees (Apis mellifera) are incoherent, too, researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Every morning, the bees set off on their daily foraging trips and return to the nest to perform a waggle dance. The angle of the bee’s body relative to the sun indicates the direction its comrades must fly in to find the good flowers, and the duration of its dance tells how far away they are. Sleep-deprived bees—kept up all night by researchers agitating them—made more errors when communicating the direction of the flower than did well-rested bees; at least until they had caught up on their sleep. Experiments to demonstrate whether bee insomnia is bad for the colony’s survival are underway; until the results are in, worker bees are advised to be tucked up in a hive, with a hot cup of nectar by 9 p.m.

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