The hum of bees and the communication of swarms

The buzz is useful for beekeepers to understand a few things: let's find out which ones

Bees emit different types of vibrations and sounds. The hum emitted by the swarms is not always the same. More experienced beekeepers are able to recognize what is happening inside the apiary simply by listening to the sounds emitted.

Listening to bees is part of the beekeeping profession but requires a lot of experience. If you are a novice beekeeper, don't worry, over time you will surely get to know the world of these wonderful animals well.

Let's see together what are the different types of buzz that bees emit, how they communicate with each other and how beekeepers interpret the acoustic signals coming from the swarms.

Why are bees buzzing?

Bees make many different sounds, but the most familiar to us is the hum. Bees are social insects and live in hives with thousands of individuals. For this reason, bees must be able to communicate with each other to find food sources and avoid predators. For this purpose, bees use a combination of smells, sounds and signals.

The buzzing that bees make is their primary way of communicating with other members of the hive. Bees make this noise by rapidly contracting their muscles and causing vibrations that resonate throughout their body.

The bee's body acts as a sounding board, amplifying these vibrations into a hum that can be heard by other bees even from a distance.

How do bees make the buzz?

Bees produce the buzz by flapping their wings 200 times per second . The hum is used to communicate many things, such as the arrival of a predator inside the hive.

Bees buzz for various reasons and especially when swarming. The sound is caused by the rapid flapping of the wings, which has a frequency of about 250 Hz.

The range of frequencies that the human ear can perceive is from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. The hearing of honey bees is more or less similar to that of humans, but it also includes some high-frequency sounds that our hearing cannot perceive.

A typical bee makes about 120-160 wing beats per second when she flies, although these can increase up to 600 beats per second under certain circumstances. 

Honey bees have been shown to detect frequencies above 300 Hz through antennas . They also have sensitive body hair that responds to vibrations.

The different types of buzzing: what bees communicate

The buzz of bees is not always the same. The most experienced beekeepers have developed the particular ability to recognize different types of buzz .

Through auditory as well as visual analysis, expert beekeepers detect what is happening in the hives which an untrained middle ear would not be able to perceive.

A buzz that occurs more frequently is the one that swarms emit when they discover a new source of nectar or settle into a new home.

The loudest buzz is undoubtedly that emitted by orphaned swarms . When a bee family is orphaned and is left without a queen bee, the swarm begins to produce a loud hum that is prolonged and whining.

The bees emit the buzz even during the swarming and therefore during the queen bee replacement phase. However, the hum emitted during the swarming phase is more subtle and less pronounced. This is a more difficult sound to detect.

The "song" of the queen bee

All beekeepers have heard of the "song" of the queen bee . Virgin queens tend to sing just before emerging from their cell. Their song corresponds to a birth announcement.

The virgin queen bees sing from the first moments of life following the flickering. To produce this particular sound defined as "song", the queens emit pulses of about two seconds and then a series of shorter sounds that last about a quarter of a second.

The song of the queen bees is a form of warning to the other competing queen bees to communicate that the newborn bee is ready for the challenge. In fact, as we know, each hive has room for only one queen bee and, for this reason, the specimens clash to elect a single sovereign of the entire hive.

In other cases, however, the song of the queen bees is a form of communication directed towards the worker bees or towards the drones of the hive, in order to obtain particular attention from them.

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