Aristotle's Account of Bees' ‘Dances’
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 December 2013
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
1 von Frisch, K., Bees, their Vision, Chemical Senses, and Language, Ithaca, N.Y., 1950.Google Scholar
2 Bekker, H., Aristoteles Latine Interpretiis Variis, ed. Ac. Reg. Boruss., Berlin, 1831.Google Scholar
4 Haldane, J. B. S. and Spurway, H., A Statistical Analysis of Communication in Apis mellifera, and a Comparison with Communication in Other Animals, Insectes Sociaux I, 247–83.Google Scholar
6 But Pliny, (Nat. Hist. XI, 16, 49)Google Scholar, after describing the emergence of bees from cells of the comb, continues Spectatum hoc Romae consularis cuiusdam suburbano, aluis cornu laternae translucido factis. The horn window may have been a Greek invention. I thank Mr. B. G. Whitfield of Eton College for drawing my attention to this passage.