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Aristotle's Account of Bees' ‘Dances’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 December 2013

J. B. S. Haldane
Department of Biometry, University College, London
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Von Frisch has shown that hive bees communicate with one another by ‘dancing’, a discovery comparable with that of Ventris. Both the direction of food found and its distance are indicated with considerable precision. Aristotle (or perhaps pseudo-Aristotle) described this dance in Hist. Animal. IX, 624b. After noting that an individual bee visits a number of flowers of the same species in succession, which Darwin, von Frisch, and others have shown to be generally, but not universally, true, he continued:

ὅταν δ' εἰς τὸ σμῆνος ἀφίκωνται, ἀποσείονται, και παρακολουθοῦσιν ἑκάστῃ τρεῑς ἢ τέτταρες. τὸ δὲ λαμβανόμενον οὐ ῥᾴδιόν ἐστιν ἰδεῖν̇ οὐδὲ τὴν ἐργασίαν ὅντινα τρόπον ποιοῦνται, οὐκ ὦπται.

Bekker's translation, due to J. C. Sealiger, revised by J. C. Schneider, is as follows:

eo cum sunt ingressae, excutiunt et deponunt onus, semper etiam singulis ternae quaternaeque administrant, quid accipiunt non facile videre est; neque visum quo operantur modo.

Research Article
Copyright © The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies 1955

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