bees hearing


Date: Mon, 11 Jul 2016 18:21:42 -0400
From: James Fischer
Subject: Re: Do honey bees hear?

Been busy, so I am catching up.

Many people think that I am joking when I am serious, and visa-versa.

This is a good example of an absolutely true statement that was the result
of much R&D time and expense.

But bees certainly do hear airborne sound.

I had prototyped a handheld unit with a digital sound chip that played a
cleaned-up recording of queen piping, and it could immobilize bees on about
half a frame.

To make sure that I was not seeing an effect that was limited to my bees
alone, I spent a day at Wyatt Mangum’s shed with about a dozen of his
one-comb colonies. We tested and found a few technical issues that needed
work, but the bottom line was we could clearly vibrate the Johnston’s Organ
and make bees “freeze” in response to the queen piping without vibrating the
surface that they were on.

The effect was stroboscopic – each note in the queen piping “song”
(conveniently a number of G-sharps, followed by an A-natural) would cause
the bees to freeze for the duration of the note, and they would resume
whatever they were doing between notes as if it was a giant game of “Red
Light / Green Light”. The speaker was small, so we could move it towards
and away from the comb, and when moving it back, we would freeze MORE bees
within the larger cone of sound being produced. If we were vibrating a
comb, we would have caused more bees to freeze when we moved the speaker
CLOSER to the comb.

So bees clearly do hear airborne sound, and this can be cheaply tested with
little trouble.

While we got much better results by attaching a transducer to the top bar of
a frame to vibrate the frame, it also worked fine in a non-contact mode with
bees on surfaces that were massive sheets (6-inch thick) of foam in an
anechoic chamber. One could use plain old eggcrate foam and see the same

Anyway, working out the power calculations to actually vibrate all the combs
in a brood chamber prompted an end to the project and the possible product.
Hence the “Meditational Bee Calmer”. You’d need amplifiers suitable for an
Emmerson, Lake, and Palmer concert.



Date: Mon, 11 Jul 2016 20:50:54 -0400
From: Jerry Bromenshenk
Subject: Re: Do honey bees hear?

We did something similar back in the late 90s. One of our students stumbled on it using a Dremel tool to make a notch in a frame for a temperature probe. We were going to name it after him – the Lenny Principle. But a bit of digging brought up references to people dragging a finger-nail over a surface (like on a chalkboard) to get the response.

It’s frequency related, and we could freeze bees on up to 5 frames, hold them frozen for up to two minutes. Like Jim, we induced it both by vibration of the frame(s) and by airborne sounds. We used a frequency analyzer and a sound generator, and we had the same thought about its uses as an alternative to a smoker; and we discovered the same logistical problem. Still, we had fun using it as a parlor trick with our 5-Frame Observation hive.

What always amazed me was how fast they all froze and how many bees froze – it was like throwing a switch.