Sleepy bees are sloppy dancers
Even bees need a good night’s sleep. Without enough sleep, researchers found, bees are sloppy in communicating their observations to other bees about where to find food.
The bees were studied at the University of Texas. Fifty honeybees (Apis mellifera) were gathered and split into two groups. A small piece of steel was attached to each bee in the one group; a small piece of copper was attached to the body of the bees in the other group. The investigators moved a magnet near the bees (which moved the pieces of metal) three times every minute during the night. The bees with the steel were awakened this way because steel is magnetic. The bees with the copper could sleep uninterrupted.
The next day, cameras followed the bees in their search for honey. It was discovered that the bees whose sleep was disturbed danced much less precisely and with more variation. Bees use this dance to communicate with others of their species to explain where food can be found, giving information about both direction and distance. Fatigued bees more often gave others bad directions and sent them the wrong way.
Bees, just like humans, need about eight hours of sleep to function normally.